Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

John Boehner draped this albatross around the GOP's neck


Thanks to a certain demagogue who shall not be named, the GOP finds itself embroiled in a bitter internal debate over immigration policy. As Politico reports, Republican insiders are distraught over the damage it's doing to the party's prospects in 2016.

“He’s solidly put an anchor around the neck of our party, and we’ll sink because of it,” as an Iowa Republican official put it.

But let's be honest: The demagogue in question has a lot to answer for, but you can't blame a demagogue for using the ammunition that is handed to him.  This is the fault of GOP congressional leadership, which year after year lacked the courage and guts to do its job and is now paying the price.

As far back as 2012, House Speaker John Boehner was pledging to enact comprehensive immigration-reform legislation that would take the immigration question off the table well before the 2016 elections. "This issue has been around far too long," Boehner said at the time.

He promised something similar in 2013, after Senate passage of a comprehensive reform bill. “It is time for Congress to act…." he said two years ago. "I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.”

But once again, it did not, and Boehner later explained why:

If Boehner had simply allowed a House vote on that Senate bill, it probably would have passed, setting a whole range of changes in motion. Today the Border Patrol would be on its way to doubling in size, from 19,000 to 38,000 officers. Some 700 miles of additional border fencing would be under construction, installation of billions of dollars in high-tech surveillance technology would be underway, and after hundreds of millions in upgrades, the E-Verify system would be robust enough to make its use mandatory for any business hiring a new employee.

And yes, millions of illegal immigrants would also have a pathway to legalized status by now, which at the end of the day is the only rational, pragmatic outcome to all this. But the issue would be behind us, the price would have been paid, and that demagogue would have been deprived of the highly emotional issue with which he is now tearing the Republican Party apart.

Speaker Boehner, this is on you.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.