Why would Boehner say no to amnesty?

Perhaps the House is sick of being stuck with bills that no one has read. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, November 13, 2013 — It appears that amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States will not move forward in the GOP controlled House of Representatives. Speaker of the House John Boehner has made it clear that he has no intention of bringing amnesty to the floor for a vote.

The Speaker had this to say.


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“We’ve made it clear that we’re going to move on a common sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration … The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House. And frankly, I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Perhaps the House is sick of being stuck with bills that no one has read.

But what does this mean? Beyond the idea of amnesty not passing or even being brought to the House floor, what does it mean politically? Beyond the political hatred, beyond the name calling, what are the consequences of this?

Why did John Boehner, reluctant and often embattled “king” of the House Republican establishment decide he would not even deign to bring the matter to the floor? How is it that the man who refused to take Democrats to the mat on Obamacare would, after several months of gossip around the Hill of secret deals between Reid and Boehner over amnesty, suddenly come out and say, “we thought about it but, hard pass kids.”


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Do not pass go, do not collect amnesty.

There are many possible reasons for this particular turn of events. Boehner could be attempting to show the conservative voting base and the Tea Party that he actually is a conservative. While the GOP civil war rages mostly on the Senate front, the House seems to be sitting there like the forgotten theater, or the goalie in a very one-sided hockey game. “If anyone was wondering, we’re still here.”

Senate Tea Party and establishment Republicans have been making their waves with their back and forth bickering and name-calling. Perhaps this is the speaker’s way of bringing attention back to the House. This move could show the conservative base that Boehner is serious about their values and representing them.

Boehner smells blood in the water. President Obama’s approval rating is 42 percent, and the scandals have taken a toll on his credibility. His repeated promises that no one would lose their coverage because of the ACA have been debunked, and he was forced to issue a sort of “I’m sorry I’m not sorry” apology.

If Boehner is smart, he will paint this bill and this effort the in the same light as Obamacare. Numerous Democrats have not read the bill, very few are aware what is in it, and the country cannot have another bill that “you need to pass to find out what’s in it.”

It sounds more as though the Democrats just want to mount a token immigration fight just so the Republicans can vote against it and take a hit in the polls. It seems as though the bill was poorly put together, it is far too open ended, and the Democrats know it.

Designed to fail? Maybe. Immigration is just being used as a means to take focus off of Obamacare, stretch Republican assets, and press on with the Democrats’ agenda. However, the Republicans don’t really need to expend any effort to make Obamacare look bad; it is doing that on its own. But just in case, Boehner will kill the amnesty tree before it can take root on the House floor, taking the wind of immigrations sails.

Boehner sees that Obama is weakened, and by extension the political force that he can put behind his allies in Congress is weakened. This affords Boehner the opportunity to say flat out, “no.”  

Boehner cannot afford another Democratic victory, especially on something like amnesty. That would be too much. Though he was not in power when the ACA passed, he cannot be remembered as the speaker who allowed millions of illegal aliens to obtain citizenship and vote Democrat for the next century. They can afford the thrashing and the name calling they will inevitably endure at the hands of “this is what’s best” progressives, but not the millions of votes that will swing left when millions of illegals are given the vote.

This is coming as House Democrats seek to appear tough on Obamacare by demanding that Obama fix the website by Friday, a tall order that is probably meant to fail. It’s a win win for them; if it’s fixed by then they can turn to the Republicans and say hey, he listens to us, let’s move forward. If it isn’t fixed, they go on record for being hard on Obamacare to their constituents during what will probably be a brutal campaign cycle.

Boehner may be making his case for a 2016 presidential run. His name has been bounced around by many who would like him to take the top spot, but many see his brand of politics as being spineless. His flat out refusal to negotiate with the Senate on an issue as crucial as amnesty could also be a play to get a few points on his presidential stock portfolio, as so many other 2016 hopefuls have been doing in their respective fiefdoms.

Boehner’s refusal to bring immigration to the House floor could mean all of these things; they are not mutually exclusive. It is also possible that Boehner is listening to Senate and House Republicans and responding to their wishes, but given that the GOP is in a period of self-loathing and civil war, maybe that’s not the best explanation.

In any event, it seems amnesty is not going anywhere for now. The bill that appeared to have more holes than Swiss cheese and more unanswered questions than the series finale of Lost is as dead as Marley’s ghost.  


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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