It used to be said that Congress is a collection of former school class presidents who grew up hoping to be leaders in Washington, D.C., someday. They are in Washington, all right, but where are the responsible leaders?
The void is really noticeable on immigration reform, an issue that everyone says needs to be dealt with but only a few are willing to bring forward. Then, when a Republican member goes out on a limb to advance a bill, GOP opponents of immigration reform trash the idea of the member who actually tried to lead.
Here is a case in point. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said some in his party are afraid to vote on immigration reform because it’s a tough issue.
“We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to. ... They’ll take the path of least resistance,” the speaker told a hometown audience last week.
But once the school yard bullies started beating up on Boehner and again threatened his future as speaker, the Ohio Republican walked back his comments. He pivoted back to the scripted message that Republicans will not act because they do not trust President Barack Obama.
Voters don’t have high regard for Republicans’ handling of immigration either, but is not a reason not to act.
Voters want action on a comprehensive immigration bill with a path to citizenship and not the politics of self deportation. We want Congress to do its job for the good of our economy, our families and our collective values as a nation of immigrants. In the Latino community, we also are very aware that every day Congress does not act, real people suffer. About 1,100 people are deported and separated from their families every day.
Boehner’s initial comments were on the mark and he should have stuck by them. If we all listen closely, we can hear a low rumble of more House Republicans beginning to side with their speaker and not the nativists who oppose immigration.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the No. 4 Republican in the House, predicted an immigration reform measure could get a House vote before Congress’ August recess.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a longtime supporter of immigration reform with citizenship, told CQ Roll Call that work on a bipartisan bill could be nearing the deal-making stage. Another Republican backer of the path to citizenship, Rep. Peter T. King of New York, wrote a letter to Boehner urging action, stating, The reality ... is that we are not going to deport 11 million immigrants.” Two Illinois Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock, also recorded videos calling for immigration reform.
Yet, we have heard nothing recently from the second and third members of the GOP leadership, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California. Cantor, considered a likely candidate for speaker, did not include immigration reform on the House’s spring calendar. McCarthy, meanwhile, simply keeps his doors locked to constituents seeking immigration reform with an earned path to citizenship. But if he did his job, he would know that immigration reform can pass in GOP-controlled House if only the leaders would allow a vote.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.