Pass the House Border Bill

Published August 7, 2014

Conservative and liberal media alike were all atwitter with Thursday’s midday news that the House of Representatives was going on its summer recess without passing a border-related bill because Republicans did not have the votes to pass it. The leftwas particularly pleased in the apparent inability of the new House leadership team to pass a relatively inexpensive bill that contained at least one conservative priority on an extremely visible issue.

Later in the day, we learned that Speaker of the House John Boehner and House GOP leadership are keeping the House in session until there is a vote on a bill, which may occur on Friday.

Boehner is right to do this, and the House should pass the bill under consideration.

According to Boehner’s office, key aspects of the House bill include that it:

  • Changes the 2008 law that allowed Central American children to avoid immediate deportation.
  • Stops the Agriculture and Interior Departments from curbing Border Patrol agents’ activities on federal lands within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Funds National Guard troops at the border.
  • Spends $659 million, about one-sixth of President Obama’s outrageous “never let a crisis go to waste” request, and offsets the spending with other cuts.
  • Adds resources like detention space and temporary immigration judges to ICE and Border Patrol operations in order to allow faster processing and deportation.
  • (If I’m reading it right) Takes money from foreign aid funds to pay for “repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.”
  • States that Congress opposes housing illegal aliens on U.S. military bases.

Opposition to the bill has come from Southern members of the House, as well as from congressmen such as anti-immigration hawk Steve King (R-IA), who has said that he would only support the measure if it includes additional legislation such as the Cruz-Blackburnbill to restrict the Deferred Action for Childhood Releases (DACA) program — President Obama’s lawless creation to allow illegal aliens to stay in the United States (for at least two years) if they claim to have been brought here as children.

[UPDATE: Much opposition to the bill among congressmen and the public alike is based on an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies — an analysis which I find quite flawed and misleading, a conclusion which I explain here.]

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been aggressively lobbying House conservatives to oppose the House bill. Alabama’s Jeff Sessions has been cheering him on.

As much as I appreciate Senators Cruz and Sessions, House Republicans should pass this bill, not least — and I stipulate to an unusually high level of cynicism here — because there is simply no chance that it will pass the Senate, or even receive a vote there.

What are the results of not passing the bill?

 Republicans open a five-week window for Democrats and their media pawns to beat them about the head and neck for being unable to pass a bill even with a substantial GOP majority. It plays into the administration’s claims, made again Thursday, that Obama must “act on his own” because Congress is impotent. It’s also a terrible way to inaugurate a new leadership team (about which more in a moment).

And the law will not change.

What are the results of passing the bill?

The Senate remains the place of gridlock, the place where bills go to die, the place where the majority party not only can’t get anything done but doesn’t even try because Harry Reid’s cynicism makes mine seem downright amateurish (and almost everyone else’s in Washington, as well, which is quite a feat). The president will look as feckless as always in his inability to corral the Democratic Party that he is the titular leader of, not that the word “leader” applies to the man in any context.

And the law will not change.

In the imaginary world in which the House bill could become law, it would be a modest improvement — perhaps even more than modest — over the current process, and at a fraction of the cost that Democrats have in mind.

The far-right wing of the Republican Party which is opposing this bill out of some strange combination of the perfect being the enemy of the good and kneeling at the altar of Ted Cruz are not just making a policy mistake but they are making a big political mistake if their goal is the good of their party and of the country rather than maximizing Ted Cruz’s political capital and turning him into the second coming of Sarah Palin.

Just as Sarah Palin is hurting Republicans with her pointless talk of impeachment (by which I do not suggest that Obama does not amply qualify for removal from office), Cruz is hurting Republicans by making them appear unwilling to do anything at all.

It’s one thing for Democrats to call the GOP the “Party of ‘No’.” It’s another thing to prove them right. And for what?

Two closing thoughts: The analysis above could be read as my being a strong supporter of both the Republican Party and the GOP’s House leadership team. I am not a Republican and don’t think much of Boehner, McCarthy, and friends — though I think better of them than many other Tea Party sympathizers and hard-core conservatives do; herding cats is a difficult, underappreciated job.

What I am a strong supporter of is turning Harry Reid into the Minority Leader in November’s elections. There is no more important short-term political imperative. And there is no alternative political party to give the Senate majority to other than the Republicans.

To paraphrase South Park’s Matt Stone: I hate Republicans but I really f***ing hate Democrats.

Thus, I care when the GOP makes such egregious and unnecessary unforced errors as Thursday’s border bill chaos.

So, my advice to House and Senate Republicans, respectively:

For House Republicans: First, do no harm. For those who don’t think the border bill goes far enough, vote “yes” anyway. There is simply no real downside to supporting the bill, and plenty of public relations downside if it fails.

For Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions, regarding their meddling, I offer the Israeli cabinet’s remarkably à propos response to Barack Obama’s recent inference in their doing what needs to be done: “Leave us alone.”


[Originally published at the American Spectator]