Immigration Bill Exposes Fractures in the GOP
Policy + Politics

Immigration Bill Exposes Fractures in the GOP

REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Late last week, reports emerged saying that former President George W. Bush is expected to make a speech this week urging immigration reform.

In the years since he left office, Bush has stayed silent on all political matters. But according to the Dallas Morning News, Bush believes immigration is such an important issue that he feels the need weigh in on the benefits of reform.

However, given discussions around Washington Sunday, Bush’s speech is likely to make little difference. The bipartisan Senate plan that passed late last month is likely dead on arrival in the House.

"Americans don't want a comprehensive bill like what we saw with Obamacare, that passed in the middle of the night... they don't want comprehensive. What they want is regular-order pieces of legislation," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said on CBS's "Face the Nation, adding that the House would go their own way.

Republicans are set to meet this week to discuss their own strategy for immigration reform. It’s widely expected that they’ll ignore the Senate bill that beefs up security along the border while providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.


Enthusiasm for this approach has never been high among House Republicans, who want stronger border security and who see the pathway to citizenship as amnesty. McCaul acknowledged that Republicans were playing with political fire if they can’t come to an agreement on reform.

"My concern of the political backdrop could be that the White House would like to see this fail in the House so that it can blame the House of Representatives for that and then try to take back the House of Representatives,” McCaul said.

The issue has become a dividing line for Republicans. GOP Senators worked on reform in a bipartisan manner and passed the bill with a strong majority. House Republicans have shown no such willingness, despite warnings that they risk losing Hispanic voters forever.

This rift was evident Sunday. On the same show that McCaul slammed the Senate bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) urged compromise.

"We are not trying to dictate what the House of Representatives should do, and I believe that if they can come up with a bill we would be more than eager to negotiate with them. A failure to act is de facto amnesty for 11 million people living in the shadows," McCain said. "So shouldn't we sit down together and solve this issue -- not only for the good of if republican party, but for the good of the nation?"

An exchange between conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and Congressman Paul Labrador (R-Id.) showed that the spirit of compromise McCain was appealing to does not exist in the House. After Labrador said the Senate plan puts amnesty ahead of security, Brooks said, “I’ve seen a lot of intellectually weak cases in this town. I’ve rarely seen as intellectually a weak case as the case against the Senate immigration bill.” 

He continued: "The Republicans say they want to reduce illegal immigration; the Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill will reduce it by a third to half. They say they want economic growth; all the top conservative economists say it’ll produce economic growth. They say they want to reduce the debt; the CBO says it will reduce the debt. All the big major objectives the Republicans stand for, the Senate immigration bill will do."