Game over? Two Republicans quit House "Gang of Seven" on immigration reform

It used to be a Gang of Eight but Raul Labrador quit back in June because Democrats wouldn’t budge on who should pay for health care for newly legalized illegals. You would think, given the sturm and drang over ObamaCare right now, that Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson would have cited that reason too. But no.

They’re thinking about the bigger picture.

“After years of hard work and countless meetings, we have reached a tipping point and can no longer continue working on a broad approach to immigration. We want to be clear. The problem is politics. Instead of doing what’s right for America, President Obama time and again has unilaterally disregarded the U.S. Constitution, the letter of the law and bypassed the Congress – the body most representative of the people – in order to advance his political agenda. We will not tolerate it. Laws passed by Congress are not merely suggestions, regardless of the current atmosphere in Washington. Laws are to be respected and followed by all – particularly by the Commander-in-Chief.

“Starting off with the President’s hallmark legislation – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – ObamaCare. The Obama administration has changed, waived or delayed key provisions with a single stroke of a pen. Congress opposed new laws that would infringe on Americans’ Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but the President resorted to executive fiat to curtail those rights. Congress rejected the President’s cap and trade bill, yet he issued rules to reduce Americans’ access to our own energy resources that would help make us energy independent. The administration’s practice of hand-picking what parts of laws they wish to enforce has irrevocably damaged our efforts of fixing our broken immigration system.

“If past actions are the best indicators of future behavior; we know that any measure depending on the president’s enforcement will not be faithfully executed. It would be gravely irresponsible to further empower this administration by granting them additional authority or discretion with a new immigration system. The bottom line is – the American people do not trust the President to enforce laws, and we don’t either.

Border hawks like Conn Carroll (and me) have made that point too. I don’t understand why it’s not a more common refrain among anti-amnesty Republicans. There isn’t much the GOP can do to stop Obama from taking dubiously constitutional unilateral actions like delaying ObamaCare’s employer mandate. They’re not going to risk a backlash by impeaching him and the courts probably would decline to hear a lawsuit on grounds that it’s a political question. But one thing they can do is make sure the public understands that it’s a big farking deal. Having the president decide that he’s not going to enforce a major provision of a law because it’s inconvenient for his party before the midterms is not business as usual. Deciding not to participate in the new border-security charade because O simply can’t be trusted to keep his promise to faithfully execute the laws is one way of communicating that. The rest of the GOP should follow suit, especially the ones who are afraid that failing to pass amnesty this year will leave the party exposed to Democratic demagoguery about Republicans hating Latinos. Here’s your answer when they try that: It’s not about immigration anymore, it’s about Obama being selective in deciding which laws he is and isn’t going to enforce. And interestingly, The One himself seems sufficiently worried about that perception taking hold among the public that he rejected the idea of an executive amnesty a few days ago on Telemundo precisely for that reason, that his discretion in enforcing laws isn’t limitless. There’s an opportunity here.

None of which is to suggest that this is Carter’s and Johnson’s only reason for quitting. Democrat and Gang of Seven member Luis Gutierrez told Greg Sargent that the Gang fell apart because Boehner and the GOP leadership just weren’t going to back a comprehensive bill of the sort the Gang favored, and that they may not support immigration reform of any kind at the moment. This made me laugh:

Immigration reformers had hoped for what they call a “bipartisan moment” on reform in October, after the government shutdown fight is resolved — one that could have involved rolling out the gang of seven plan. But Gutierrez cast doubt on the possibility, noting he doesn’t expect anything to happen with the gang’s bill “anytime in the near future.”

Really? Think this through. The government shutdown fight will be resolved when Boehner and Cantor eventually abandon the effort to defund ObamaCare and shift to trying to delay the law for a year in debt-ceiling negotiations. They may end up needing a few Democratic votes to help pass a clean CR that includes ObamaCare funding if House conservatives refuse to vote with the leadership on principle. Unless Ted Cruz and Mike Lee end up grudgingly endorsing Boehner’s strategy, grassroots conservatives will end up enraged that House leaders once again gave up on an effort to have a big fight about big government now with nothing more than a promise to have that fight later. Assuming that’s how it all goes down, with the base angry over the latest party “sellout,” how eager do you think House Republicans facing reelection next year will be to then turn around and have a “bipartisan moment” with Democrats by agreeing to amnesty? If the left really wants immigration reform to pass the House, their best shot is to hope that Boehner can achieve some sort of meaningful conservative victory over the next six months or so that’ll buy Republicans enough credit with the base to let them get away with a modest legalization measure in the spring, maybe like the “Kids Act” that Cantor was imagining. Exit question: What are the odds that Boehner will achieve a meaningful conservative victory of any kind?