Immigration politics remain a deep source of friction in the House Republican caucus. One of the reasons for this friction is that immigration touches on a host of issues central to debates about conservatism in the 21st century. Among these issues are the role of the nation-state, the place of economic narratives for republican well-being, whether to accept or confront escalating socioeconomic stratification, the role of business interests in crafting government policy, the fiscal and moral sustainability of the welfare state, and other topics.
Immigration politics helped bring down Eric Cantor and certainly didn’t help Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the speakership. They have also added obstacles to Paul Ryan’s path to the speaker’s chair. Congressman Ryan is a multi-decade veteran of the nation’s immigration debates, and many center-right activists are highly skeptical about his record on this issue.
However, it seems unlikely that any “comprehensive bill” would make it through Congress in 2016 no matter what. It’s hard to see how the Senate would get to 60 votes on a “comprehensive” immigration bill in 2016. Not only is it an election year, but many of the Democrats who supported the Gang of Eight bill lost in 2014, and a number of Republicans who supported it are up for reelection in November 2016. The Senate’s likely inability to pass an immigration bill for the rest of the Obama presidency makes the House’s refusal to pass a flawed immigration bill less important.
If Republicans are going to cast their votes based on a candidate for speaker’s commitments on immigration, they would be wise to look beyond the horizon of the Obama administration and ensure that the caucus will maintain its ability to keep its leadership in line with forward-looking conservative values.
— Fred Bauer is a writer from New England. He blogs at A Certain Enthusiasm, and his work has been featured in numerous publications.