Top Republicans Predict Immigration Reform Will Die in House

Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 02:10 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Top Republicans are predicting immigration reform will die a slow death in the GOP-controlled House, and they also believe that the conventional wisdom that the party will alienate Hispanic voters is wrong.

The reality is most House Republicans are white conservatives who represent mostly white districts, write Politico's Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in a "Behind the Curtains" article.

"These members, and the vast majority of their voters, couldn't care less whether Marco Rubio, Bill O'Reilly, and Karl Rove say this is smart politics and policy," the article says.

Republican leaders are meeting to plot their political strategy, but it is becoming clear to them that getting even the most popular pieces of immigration reform in the House is going to be a tough sell. The House is taking on the immigration issue a piece at a time, beginning with a border-security bill and then adding other items later this summer.

GOP Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said that many of his constituents don't want the House to pass anything close to the Senate's version.

"Our constituents don't trust our government,” Cotton told Politico, noting he is reluctant to pass even pieces of immigrant reform because they could become "a Trojan horse in a conference committee for a package that puts legalization first and enforcement later."

In the Senate, Sen. Rubio of Florida was able to persuade only 13 fellow Republican senators to back the legislation and GOP surveys in the House show that only a small number there will approve the Senate's bill or anything close to it.

Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King, holding a meeting Monday night to walk through why the party should defeat the bill, said the Senate's plan will only help "elites who want cheap labor, Democratic power brokers, and those who hire illegal labor" – but would hurt Republicans.

"It would hurt Republicans, and I don’t think you can make an argument otherwise," King said. "Two out of every three of the new citizens would be Democrats."

King has called for Republicans to scrap the immigration bill until there is a new president, saying in an exclusive Newsmax interview that "Congress does not have an obligation to resolve the issue of the 11 million to 33 million people who are here illegally. They came here on their own. They came here to live in the shadows."

Even if the House Republicans listen to Rubio and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan on the immigration issue, the battle to gain its passage won't likely be appreciated by Hispanic voters.

"Republicans would remain stuck in a defensive, reactionary posture with persuadable Latino voters," said Luke Frans, executive director of Resurgent Republic, a conservative research group that did extensive polling and focus groups with Hispanic voters in 2012.

Even though presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost Hispanics by more than 40 points, most House Republicans point out that their districts have few Latino voters.

"The belief among House Republicans is that they're going to do well in the midterms, and that instead of negotiating now from a position of weakness, they should wait until 2015," said a lobbyist close to House GOP leaders. "They'll be stronger in the House and maybe control the Senate."

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