Congress has only been in session a few weeks, but fissures within the GOP are already surfacing, especially on the immigration front. On January 27th, the House pulled from the floor the border security bill introduced by Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael McCaul (Republican- Texas). “Secure Our Borders First” was pulled because of objectives presented by some of the more conservative members of the GOP who did not perceive the bill to be strong enough on border security. The McCaul bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to prevent all illegal border crossings over the next five years. It would also allocate billions of dollars for the purchase of drones, fencing, technology and other equipment. However, conservatives in both the House and Senate criticized the bill for not being strong enough on interior enforcement and for not adequately preventing migrants from crossing the border. The conservative complaints led to a rare situation where Representative McCaul issued a joint statement with Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee conveying their commitment to collaborating on legislation that fully integrates all components of border enforcement.
The GOP was also splintered by the House bill to continue funding for the Department of Homeland Security. While the overall bill passed 236-191, the bill’s deportation amendment revealed a growing divide within the Republican Party as 26 Republicans voted against stopping delayed deportations for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. While Republicans united on the overall bill, the 218-209 vote on halting the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clearly demonstrated the heat which House members are feeling from their constituents. The 26 Republicans who opposed the amendment included lawmakers from districts with large Hispanic populations including Representative Mark Amodei (Republican-Nevada) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican-Florida). Interestingly enough, a Paragon Insights poll released on January 29th revealed that 58 percent of registered voters oppose Obama’s worker amnesty program. Opposition was expectedly strongest among Republicans with 86% opposing the bill and12% supporting it. Among Democrats, opposition was 33%, support 60%, and among Independents opposition was 60%, support 32%. In addition, 53% of registered voters support removing funding for the program with Republicans showing 81% support, Democrats, 29% support and Independents 54% support.
Congress’s chamber leaders have also sparked separation within the GOP with some conservatives dissatisfied with House Leader John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) and newly minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky). Some Republicans have accused House Speaker Boehner of not effectively managing the expectations of House conservatives. These lawmakers maintain that House Speaker Boehner should have made it clearer to conservatives that repealing the DACA program and the executive action protecting another five million illegal immigrants from deportation has no chance of passing the Senate. Republicans are concerned about creating a scenario where Speaker Boehner repeatedly sends bills to the Senate where there is little chance of them achieving the necessary Democratic votes for passage fueling further frustration within the chambers. Senate Republicans have also specifically addressed concerns that House Speaker Boehner whose leadership was challenged at the onset of 114th Congress is trying to keep conservatives happy at the expense of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Furthermore, Speaker Boehner’s suing President Obama over the executive action promising amnesty for 4.5 million illegal immigrants has also split the party with some members thinking the suit is a pointless action and others thinking that he is not doing enough to counter the President’s executive action which is effectively overstepping the authority of the Executive Office.
Republicans are also displaying waning support for Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Representative Steve King (Republican- Iowa), is already accusing McConnell of not doing enough to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the House Bill repealing DACA and the protection of the additional five million illegal aliens from deportation. Others think McConnell is doing a good job of pushing legislation through while trying to hold onto a fragile majority. Republicans have 54 seats in the Senate, and will be defending 24 incumbents in 2016.
Right out of the gate, Republicans are facing some difficulty coming together. This situation needs to be effectively managed by the leaders of the chambers or it will be very difficult to pass meaningful legislation. After all “A House Divided against Itself Cannot Stand.”
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