Boehner kills amnesty as GOP sketches plans to woo workers, Latinos

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The dream of a huge “comprehensive immigration reform” bill isn’t completely dead, say the many progressives and Latino groups seeking to rewrite the immigration system.

The nightmare isn’t nearly dead enough, respond the many anti-immigration advocates who want to reduce immigration.

To keep the near-dead bill in its new grave, a chorus of GOP-friendly populists say the party should shift its focus from just employers to also include employees who will fill the ballot boxes in 2014 and 2016.

The dispute was fueled by House Speaker John Boehner, who declared Wednesday that he would not try to develop a compromise version of the amnesty and guestworker bill passed by the Senate in June.

“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,” Boehner said, likely killing progressive’s hopes for House approval of the Senate bill.

If backed by Boehner, the Senate bill would have provided work-permits to 30 million immigrants, plus at least 10 million guest workers, over the next decade.

Since last November, when the GOP presidential candidate lost the Latino vote by 43 points, Boehner has hinted he wants to pass a major immigration rewrite.

The rewrite has been championed by business lobbyists, by progressives and by a series of GOP consultants and strategists who say the party will wither and die if Democrats are allowed to have a monopoly on the Latino vote.

Democrats decried Boehner’s decision to walk away from the immigration-boosting Senate bill.

“I believe the House will come to its senses and realize that we have to fix our immigration system in a bipartisan way,” responded New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who managed the passage of the Senate’s bill.

Progressive groups, including unions, have promised to step up their efforts to paint the GOP as anti-Latino.

Although Boehner has backed away from the Senate bill, he and other top GOP leaders remain under huge pressure from progressive, media and business lobbies, said Roy Beck, whose NumbersUSA group played a role in persuading GOP leaders to ditch the Senate’s immigration rewrite.

Boehner has only backed away from the immigration rewrite because of voter pressure, Beck said.

He’s retreated “not because he’s a champion of American workers, but because he’s decided to pull back from being the enemy of American workers… The danger has not passed,” Beck said.

However, because of Boehner’s retreat, “the populist political ground for standing up for American workers is wide open” for any politician who reaches for the prize, said Beck.

“The Republican leadership [in Congress] is nowhere near that ground and the Democratic leadership has abandoned that ground,” said Beck.

GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, however, jumped into the spotlight.

“It’s time for Republicans to tell these special interests to get lost and to be the one party that will defend the interests of the millions of low-wage Americans looking for better jobs and better wages,” Sessions said in a statement released shortly after Boehner’s announcement

“This is the moment for a vision to emerge centered on growth and prosperity for working Americans—not just the powerful and well-connected,” he said.

Low-immigration advocates like Beck hope that alert voters will push and prod the next set of GOP presidential candidates towards a populist, low-immigration, high-wage strategy.

That’s difficult, partly because candidates such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are being offered donations by wealthy donors who want them to embrace a business-boosting high-immigration policy, Beck said.

American voters “need to be putting pressure on them before they box themselves in with stupid statements” prior to the 2016 primaries, he added.

The low-immigration coalition, Beck said, will have the initiative only “when we start seeing politicians competing to outdo each other on populist grounds.”

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