Boehner’s Dilemma: Make History Or Be History
07/04/2013 - 10:14
Douglas Bloomfield

Congressional Republicans sometimes resemble a circular firing squad.  That's on display these days as libertarians, tea partiers, religious conservatives, pro-business fiscal conservatives, old-guard GOP’ers, some lonely moderates, assorted wingnuts and a perplexed leadership try to deal with immigration reform.

Some see the issue as one of law enforcement along a porous border, some see it as a political necessity if their party is to win back some of the 71% of Hispanic votes they lost to the Democrats last year and for others the highest priority is making sure Barack Obama doesn't win any bragging rights.

One of those caught in the middle is Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is torn between deciding whether he wants to make history or be history.

Major party donors say the party is widely seen as intolerant toward minorities, as in 2012 when in addition to losing 71% of Hispanic voters it also lost 73% of Asian Americans, 70% of Jews and 95% of African Americans.

A key element in the bipartisan reform bill that passed the Senate last week by 68-32 is the promise of a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented aliens currently living in the United States.  House Republican leaders have said they will not bring the Senate bill to the floor and that whatever they do allow members to vote on will not have that citizenship provision.  In fact, Boehner said, nothing will come before the full House that doesn’t have the support of a majority of his caucus (the so-called Hastert rule).

The bipartisan Senate bill had the backing of major Jewish organizations and most Jewish voters, and is one more reason Jews, like Hispanics, are likely to remain in the Democratic column for years to come.

Whatever the outcome of immigration reform, as I point out in my Washington Watch column, the Democrats could find themselves in a win-win situation.  They either get credit for enacting a path to citizenship or see defeat of the legislation alienate Republicans from the fastest growing and most influential minority groups in the country.  

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the Republicans have made their own calculus.
1. If they oppose immigration reform, they'll stay stuck around 30 percent of the Latino vote;
2. If they favor immigration reform, they may increase their share to 35 percent, but on an overall basis the Dems will get a lot more votes.

John Boehner's Republican House members are primarily from districts where the Hispanic vote is not particularly significant. To these members, it's a lot easier to win re-election with low numbers among Hispanics than to beat back a challenge from another Rep who'll outflank them on the right.

Blame the system; blame the voting rights act which mandated districts of "minority-majority" to give blacks and latinos representation, but in effect marginalized them into gerrymandered ghettos.

and the idea that the majority of jews support substantive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the 11 million who are here illegally may well sound nice among the leadership of the major Jewish organizations in their public statements, but it does not necessarily represent the preferences of the majority of Jews.

and there are very few Jews who will base their voting decision on a candidate's stance on immigration reform.