Well that clears that up.
It wasn't the legislative calendar after all. The House GOP, speaking through Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), finally admitted the obvious last Wednesday -- the Republicans have no intention of allowing the House of Representatives to vote on anything resembling immigration reform legislation -- comprehensive or piecemeal or otherwise. "Frankly, I'll make clear, we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate Bill," the Speaker said. Nor did the Speaker commit to bringing immigration legislation to the House floor in pieces.
Mr. Boehner was seated at the counter in Pete's Diner on Capitol Hill where he's a morning regular. He'd been confronted at breakfast by two young undocumented immigrants who implored him to do his job -- work to pass immigration reform so they and the 11 million like them will have a chance to earn their way to lawful status so they won't have to continue to live in fear of arrest, detention and deportation. Boehner, apparently feigning empathy, claimed he was. "I'm trying to find some way to get this thing done" Mr. Boehner said. "It's, uh, as you know, not easy, not going to be an easy path forward. But I've made it clear since the day after the election it's time to get this done."
Yet what Boehner and his House Republican colleagues have made clear since the 2012 election is that they will only do the people's work, whether it's avoiding a fiscal cliff, negotiating a federal budget, or guarding the Nation's credit rating, if they are forced to do so by being backed into a political corner. The House GOP leadership are quick to come up with lame excuses -- like the so-called Hastert Rule or a short legislative calendar -- but they are much slower to act on behalf of the country.
Truth be told, there is absolutely no reason why the Republicans cannot bring an immigration reform bill to the House floor by the end of this year. In fact that's exactly what they did in the final days of 2005 when the House passed H.R. 4437, the infamous "Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act," with overwhelming Republican support. H.R. 4437 was a mean spirited piece of legislation aimed at making millions of Latino immigrants into felons -- it wasn't all that different from the so-called SAFE Act currently pending before Congress.
Here's how it went: The House Judiciary Committee considered H.R. 4437 for one day on December 8th and had 3 roll call votes. It was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on Dec. 13th, debated on the House floor for two days - Dec. 15th (from 4:15 p.m.-9:30 p.m.) and Dec. 16th (from 3:10 p.m.-10:30 p.m.) -- and passed by the Republican controlled House 239-182. Not only that, H.R. 4437 came with a price tag of $1.9 billion for 2006-2010 and with costs that would "grow significantly" after 2010.
I'm tempted to conclude this column stating that by standing in the way of immigration reform and maintaining the untenable, cruel, and anti-American family status quo, the GOP is risking its future as a major political party. But that's already been said and the Republicans have clearly failed to heed the warning.
The reality is that the situation is much more grave than a political party refusing to act in its own long-term political interests. The House Republicans simply will not work with the Senate or the President to hammer out bipartisan immigration reform legislation which is critical to America's national security and economic vitality. In other words, the GOP is refusing to perform its Constitutional duty to legislate in good faith.
That's not politics, that's betrayal of the American people.