Boehner’s Bad Coach

Mickey Kaus Columnist
Font Size:

Remind me to never hire Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona to coach a football team. Congressman Salmon, a member of Speaker Boehner’s “Border Crisis Working Group,” recently took to Breitbart.com to urge Republicans to approve the group’s recommendations, which include an amendment to the 2008 Wilberforce law (which the Obama administration has interpreted to guarantee semi-judicial hearings to virtually all of the Central Americans who show up at the border):

Now, I understand that the biggest fear among my Republican colleagues is that the Senate will take advantage of our proposal and play politics; attaching some version of “comprehensive immigration reform” and sending it back to the House. They forget that we have an obligation as our nation’s leaders to take action.

Doing nothing is not an option. [**] Doing nothing allows the Obama Administration to continue their failed policies that have led to lack luster border protection, illegal immigrant families being released into our communities, and thousands of unaccompanied alien children being wards of the state for more than 3 years at enormous taxpayer expense. We can either pick up the President’s fumble and advance the ball by protecting our borders and requiring our immigration laws be enforced or we can watch the administration continue to fumble, leaving our communities to suffer the consequences.

Right now, the House is leading this debate with these thoughtful and bold recommendations. We’re holding the ball, but we need to act. We cannot be a team that is afraid of throwing a pass for fear that the other team might intercept it. We cannot snap the ball just to take a knee. That failed argument can be made for any legislation that we work on, but if that is our position, why are we here? [E.A.]

Time out! There’s a reason why good football players sometimes take a knee: because when you’re ahead in the game and the clock is running out, throwing a pass (or even attempting a hand-off) is unnecessarily risky and therefore extremely stupid. Take a knee you win the game. Throw a pass and you may throw away the game. Duh.

So-called “comprehensive immigration reform” came into the 113th Congress with a big head of steam. Skeptics who (rightly) worry about its untenable “amnesty first/enforcement later” structure have successfully fended it off so far, against all odds, with the help of voters. But there are still battalions of clever business lobbyists and Latino activists  scheming to find a last-minute opening to pass it, or parts of it, despite its apparent demise in the House. Indeed, passing “CIR” remains the explicit official Democratic response to the Central America border surge, once the issue of “supplemental” funds to deal with the current “surge” is addressed.

What happens if Republicans now pass the supplemental bill but attach a change in immigration law — attempting earnestly to fix Wilberforce? True, Democrats have said they oppose any changes in that law — but now they’ll be confronted with a passed House bill and the possibility of a conference to negotiate an agreement with the Senate and White House. Isn’t their logical response something like — “Well, OK. We can reluctantly amend Wilberforce, but you have to give us at least something in return.” What will that something be? Maybe a watered-down amnesty law? Maybe the sort of legal guest-worker or immigration increase business lobbyists want?  Maybe a tacit ratification of Obama’s executive de facto amnesties? We don’t know. Rep. Salmon doesn’t know either. But some quid pro quo would seem to be what happens next, when whatever the House passes goes to Harry Reid’s more divided, Democratic Senate.

A good football coach thinks several plays ahead. Rep. Salmon seems incapable of thinking one play ahead.

By passing any immigration change now — even a desirable one — Republicans open themselves up to a protracted negotiation, perhaps into a lame duck session,*** with the massed forces of Obama, Haley Barbour, the Chamber of Commerce, (and Rupert Murdoch), all angling for one part of “comprehensive” reform or another. That might be good for GOP fundraising — lobbyists can be generous when they really want something — but this isn’t a fundraising game (or a PR game, let alone a football game). What is at stake is the fundamental policy of the nation.

The four Republicans behind the Senate’s “Gang of 8” amnesty bill have given casual assurances that “none of us would support including that [Gang of 8] bill”  as part of the current border crisis response. But it’s not the Republicans I’m worried about! The GOP House leadership apparently gave similar assurances to its caucus last week (though I’m told by a Hill source they were still a bit waffle-y).  Salmon seems to go even further, pledging “we won’t accept any attempt to offer a more targeted immigration reform measure, such as the DREAM Act, or any other immigration reform proposal.” Such measures “will run into a brick wall in the People’s House.”

Nice to know. But there’s no reason Republicans should have to trust Boehner’s “brick wall” promise to resist further amnesty pushes. If the House doesn’t amend Wilberforce, there will be no further amnesty pushes to resist. Period.  Salmon’s strategy is like … I dunno, turning over the ball but declaring you have great confidence in your defense to make a heroic goal line stand.

And if poor beleaguered Republican Congressmen can’t explain that in August to conservative constituents angry about the Central American surge, they shouldn’t be in politics.

That’s especially true since not amending Wilberforce hardly means accepting a continued surge. There are plenty of things President Obama can do to bring the surge under control, like enforcing the statues explicit definition of “unaccompanied alien child,” which would seem to exclude half of the migrants now coming into the Rio Grande Valley from Wilberforce’s seeming guarantee of a hearing.  After all, Obama now has a substantial incentive to at least seem to have brought the border surge under control (if only to buy credibility for a big amnesty down the road). Republicans can tackle the ill-written Wilberforce law next Congress — when there will be more of them, when they may be in charge of the Senate, when the Gang of 8 bill will have disappeared and when Democrats will be less able to use the need to ‘do something’ about a crisis as last-minute leverage to force some kind of amnesty.

If Republicans are worried about being blamed for “doing nothing,” then they might simply give Obama some of the money he wants, in a clean bill, without attaching the sort of legislative changes that might trigger a conference on immigration law. Since Dems — in theory — also oppose such changes, they can hardly object.  Give them what they want. (Heh).

I don’t want to wake up one morning in September to see a front page NYT piece by Julia Preston with the headline, “Immigration  Reformers Discover Legislative Silver Lining in Border Crisis.”

Maybe that prospect doesn’t bother Coach Salmon.


** — Red flag! Saying something is “not an option” is almost always BS.

*** — It seems highly unlikely that any bill the House passes this week will be okayed by the Senate before the August recess. Which means a) the argument that the government will run out of money is moot — they aren’t getting any more even if the House acts and b) the debate will invariably extend into the fall, with who-knows-what consequences.

Mickey Kaus