Eric Cantor — The New “Mr. Amnesty”?

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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The Threat of Cheap Denham: Don’t be fooled by press accounts that downplay the significance of Rep. Jeff Denham’s attempt to add something called the ENLIST Act to the defense authorization (NDAA) bill. It’s a significant push for a substantial immigration amnesty, and it has a good chance of succeeding. Opponents of an “Amnesty First” approach to immigration should be worried.

Here’s why:

— On the surface, it looks like Denham’s amendment would give amnesty only to an almost comically appealing subset of illegal immigrants: “DREAMers” who were brought to this country when they were young and who also serve in the military–a relatively small group of people, hundreds rather than thousands in all likelihood. When his proposal drew criticism, Denham, an Air Force veteran, immediately played his cheesiest “get-out-of-argument-free” card, babbling about “members that have never worn the cloth of our nation” opposing it.

— But, of course, Denham’s amendment isn’t about helping a few patriotic DREAMers. It’s about getting an immigration bill–any immigration bill–to the Senate where Democrats led by Senators Reid and Schumer can expand it by adding as much of the massive Gang of 8 amnesty as possible, and then going to “conference” with the House on must-pass piece of legislation. It is, to use the technical term, a Trojan Horse.

— Denham was originally rebuffed by Rep. Howard “Buck “McKeon, who chairs the Armed Services Committee. Many press accounts suggested that Denham’s only resort is now to try to amend the NDAA bill on the House floor. Wrong! All that McKeon (who supports amnesty in general, and the ENLIST Act, and is retiring) said is that Denham’s language won’t be included in the initial draft (or “mark”) of the bill. But it can still be added in the committee,  before it ever gets to the House floor. (Denham isn’t on the Armed Service Committee, but he can try to get one of its supporters who is on the committee — like Rep. Joe Heck — to propose it.)

— The makeup of the committee is not unfavorable to Denham. There are 32 members–including 14 Democrats (who will probably all vote for ENLIST) and seven Republicans who also support ENLIST. It will easily pass if those Republicans vote for it, which they might do, barring other considerations …

— What might those other considerations be? Well, avoiding a messy fight that could rip the GOP apart before a mid-term election they might otherwise win … not forcing members to make an uncomfortable on-the-record vote … not violating Speaker Boehner’s pledge to abide by the Hastert Rule, which requires a majority of the GOP caucus before legislation gets to the floor … not usurping the jurisdiction of Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee.

On the other hand, the pro-amnesty coalition–including its big-donors–must be getting more than a little desperate. They see the possibility of a broad amnesty (and an increase in imported labor) slipping out of their grasp, perhaps for years.

— Significantly, Denham says he has a pledge of support from Majority Leader Eric Cantor.** Indeed, according to a well-placed source, this whole effort is being driven by Cantor and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (who is #3 in the House GOP leadership). Denham is just the front man.

Who might stop it and why:

McKeon— He may not want to be remembered, in retirement, for starting a donnybrook that costs Republicans seats. His office phone number is 202 225 1956. The Armed Services Committee is 202 225 4151.

Goodlatte might defend his committee’s jurisdiction (as he did last year). Don’t count on it, though. Goodlatte’s been going along with the amnesty plans of the House leadership, expressing support for some kind of deal. His phone numbers are 202 225 5431 (his office) or 202 225 3951 (Judiciary Committee).

–McCarthy: He’s obviously scared of something, otherwise he’d have been pushing openly for amnesty instead of operating through surrogates.  Maybe he can be more scared.  His office is 202 225 2915.

Boehner:  202 225 0600 (Speaker’s office), 202 225 6205 (his regular member’s office). Boehner probably wants another term as Speaker, in which case he is susceptible to pressure not to betray his Hastert Rule pledge. But he may retire–especially if Republicans don’t regain the Senate, in which case it might make more sense to focus on …

Cantor: Cantor wants to be Speaker one day– one day soon. He would probably stop his amnesty campaign instantly if he were persuaded it would scuttle his Speakership chances by convincing a large segment of his caucus that he’s a pointless sack of ambition an unreliable conservative.  His numbers are 202 225 2815 or 202 225 4000.

Members are, as always, surprisingly sensitive to telephone calls …


**– Cantor’s office recently confirmed his support for the ENLIST bill, Breitbart‘s Matthew Boyle reports.

Mickey Kaus