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  • Will New Republican Leadership Produce Conservative Immigration Reform?

    With a Hoosier Republican as a candidate in yesterday’s leadership elections there may have been more eyes from Indiana on the results as they came out. Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.) was elected House Majority Whip after the current whip, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was elected House Majority Leader to replace Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

    A question on the minds of many conservative activists was whether electing a conservative would have an impact on the type of legislation making its way out of the House. This concept is often viewed through the lens of immigration reform because it is widely perceived Rep. Cantor’s support for aggressive immigration reform without adequate border security had an impact on his defeat.

    While the vote counts are not being made public, a departure from past practice in House Republican leadership elections, there are a few things we can learn from the result. First, Rep. Scalise is a more natural whip and perhaps more technically qualified for the position than the other candidates.  The Whip’s job is to count votes and he went in to the elections this afternoon declaring he would win on the first ballot, which he did. Now one could argue his chances of winning would diminish if he wasn’t elected first ballot, but someone’s vote counts had to be wrong and it’s clear his weren’t.

    For Rep. Scalise to have won on the first ballot means he built a pretty strong coalition among the different interest groups within the caucus. This is important because it is clear that a portion of the conservative base isn’t supporting Rep. Scalise given Congressman Marlin Stutzman’s (R-Ind.) challenge in this election. Their frustration with his leadership, or lack therof, of the Republican Study Committee was enough to spur a protest candidate. In spite of that core of votes that does not support him, Rep. Scalise must have support from some conservatives in the caucus and it means they and the other members of his coalition will all have his ear. As a result Rep. Scalise is going to be able to give the leadership pretty good input as to what he can get passed and what he can’t.

    All that being said, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) still holds the gavel. Maj. Leader McCarthy is still in the leadership. Both have been strong advocates of accomplishing any sort of immigration reform. While there are many groups interested in this issue, my impression is that this drive has always been an imperative from the business community more so than any other group. The pressure from big corporations and K Street lobbyists seeking progress on this issue is not going to subside because someone new was elected Whip.

    The best way the Republican leadership can find their way out of the bag they’ve backed into on immigration reform would be to offer a proposal that would actually work from both a border security and immigration reform stand point. Their challenge is that any legislation meeting that criteria will never get signed by this President let alone pass the Senate. The result is we’re at a stalemate with a bunch of people giving the caucus leadership a hard time who:
    1. probably wouldn’t contribute money to Republicans and
    2. do give money to Republicans but who probably wouldn’t give it to Democrats

    So the Republican Leadership wants the money going to their candidates or at least not going against their candidates and can’t do that without showing interest in moving on reform. In spite of their posturing on getting something done they can’t really do move forward because the President and Senate Leadership refuse to address border security issues and the fundamental fairness of letting people essentially butt in line. Rep. Scalise will be sure to tell his colleagues in the leadership that there are not enough votes in the caucus to do anything on the immigration reform front without addressing those two critical aspects of the issue.

    What’s interesting is that while Democrats run the Senate and live in the White House and refuse to consider border security (among other aspects of immigration reform), it’s the fault of Republicans who run the House that something doesn’t get accomplished on this issue. The interests pressuring Republicans to “get something done” refuse to hold Democrats to the same standard, which suggests they’re really not interested in working with Republicans to accomplish good policy, but working through Republicans to get what they want.

    This post was tagged under: Immigration, Marlin Stutzman

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