Opinion: Cantor defeat stalls immigration reform

June 12, 2014


— The morning after, at breakfast at the Republicans’ Capitol Hill Club, Virginia Rep. Robert Goodlatte was, as befits one of Washington’s grown-ups, measured in his reaction to what 36,120 Virginia voters did the day before. It would, he says, be wise “to take a step back and a deep breath until we find out how everyone” — meaning, especially, House Republicans — “reacts to this.” By “this” he indicates, with a wave of a hand, the one-word headline on Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Congress: “Stunner.” 

Roll Call’s online article added these four words: “Cantor Upset Changes Everything.” Of course, nothing changes everything, but the resounding and unprecedented defeat in a Republican primary of the soon-to-be former House majority leader will send ripples radiating through the House and into the Republicans’ 2016 presidential nomination contest.

It is often folly to try to tickle national portents from local events. But there are fewer purely local political events now that elections have become increasingly nationalized in this era of inter-party and intra-party ideological combat. So, consider how the unhorsing of Cantor may strike some other Republicans.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who embraces a more welcoming immigration policy than does much of the Republican nominating electorate, may construe Cantor’s defeat as a discouraging augury concerning any presidential aspirations Bush might have. Cantor was damaged by the accusation that he favors “amnesty” for the more than 11 million illegal immigrants. Actually, he may have done more damage to himself by seeming to take multiple and contradictory positions on immigration.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan may be weighing a probable ascent in the House leadership against the uncertainties of seeking the Republican presidential nomination. The removal of Cantor, a formidable rival for the office of speaker once John Boehner relinquishes it, may give Ryan reason to remain in Congress. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who hardly has an insufficiency of audacity, will be further emboldened in his presidential ambitions because tea-party support helped to propel David Brat, a 49-year-old college professor, to victory over Cantor. Never mind that Brat, who speaks equably about making Washington work, seems to eschew Cruz’s confrontational style.   

Although the “amnesty” accusation hurt Cantor, so did his membership in Congress’ leadership, and the perception that he had neglected his district. Also, he foolishly used his campaign millions to barrage Brat with absurd ads implying that because Brat is a professor, he must be a liberal.

Campaign reformers who believe money is the sovereign determinative in elections should consider the contrary evidence of Brat’s $231,000 war chest. Big ideas can have bigger consequences than cash does, and Brat resonated with tea-party types primarily because his campaign vocabulary was that of constitutionally limited government — 10th Amendment conservatism.

Goodlatte, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, which processes immigration legislation, may have set a 2014 record for understatement when he said Cantor’s defeat will not improve the chances of immigration reform this year. But the chances were, he says, slim anyway.

Congress will be away most of August and expects to adjourn for campaigning in early October, at the latest. Barack Obama, Goodlatte says, continues to poison the well by threatening to use his “pen and phone” — unilateral actions — to alter immigration policy without involving Congress.

Goodlatte believes that piecemeal reforms — addressing border security, high-qualification immigrants and other matters separately — would be possible if many people, including Obama, were not holding all progress hostage to the chimera of “comprehensive” reform.

The subject is, for him, personal. Immigration cases were about half his practice as a lawyer before he came to Congress in 1993, and he strongly sympathizes with his former clients — persons who conscientiously tried to become legal immigrants while others, ignoring legality, “would go right around them.”

He does not think “anybody” among House Republicans believes we are going to deport 11 million people. And he thinks a large majority of illegal immigrants would be largely satisfied with legislation providing a pathway to a legal status short of citizenship. If, however, Cantor’s defeat reinforces the perception that Republicans are simply hostile regarding immigration and immigrants, ripples from it might swamp attempts to align Republican policy with the 51 percent of Republicans nationwide, who like 62 percent of Americans, favor for the 11 million a pathway to citizenship. 

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

GOP leadership should be IMPEACHED Today

"Republicans are so intent on defeating President Obama for re-election that they are purposely sabotaging the country's economic recovery. These charges are now being levied by Democrats such as Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Obama's key political adviser, David Axelrod."

GOP leadership should be IMPEACHED Today - there are grounds as we speak

Why has job creation in America slowed to a crawl? Why, after several months of economic hope, are things suddenly turning sour? The culprits might seem obvious – uncertainty in Europe, an uneven economic recovery, fiscal and monetary policymakers immobilized and incapable of acting. But increasingly, Democrats are making the argument that the real culprit for the country's economic woes lies in a more discrete location: with the Republican Party.

In recent days, Democrats have started coming out and saying publicly what many have been mumbling privately for years –-----

Republicans are so intent on defeating President Obama for re-election that they are purposely sabotaging the country's economic recovery. These charges are now being levied by Democrats such as Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Obama's key political adviser, David Axelrod.

For Democrats, perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence of GOP premeditated malice is the 2010 quote from Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell:

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Such words lead some to the conclusion that Republicans will do anything, including short-circuiting the economy, in order to hurt Obama politically


Eric Cantor has long played a role in supporting the GOP's destruction of the USA economy so I speculate after observing.

Richard Payton 3 years, 11 months ago

Richard Heckler should know the President can't run for re-election. As a two term President that wouldn't be possible unless Obama changes the law with his pen.

Bob Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

How much poverty and lawlessness do the open borders people want to import?

Bob Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

Speaking of illegal aliens: "…Federico Mendez-Hernandez, 28, began showing symptoms only several days after Border Patrol captured him in South Texas following his illegal entry in May 2013. At an immigrant detention center, Mendez-Hernandez repeatedly visited its medical clinic with symptoms including excessive saliva, anxiety, insomnia, trouble swallowing and a rapid heart rate, according to CDC reports…." http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/Immigrant-s-rabies-death-set-off-search-for-others-5537351.php

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 11 months ago

So, if we changed the immigration laws, so people from Central America and Mexico could more easily immigrate legally, the only people who did come in illegally would be the drug runners and the other criminals, so it would be much easier to control. But hateful tea party "'murikans" won't even compromise that much. Instead those "good 'murickans" collect their disability checks, so they can take their guns down to defend a dead beat rancher and say how much the hate the government, that is feeding them. Republicans are just the do nothing party. I mean if they fixed the immigration problem, then they wouldn't have anything to whine about. They even went against Bush on this. That was one of the things that I agreed with Bush, but I lost a lot of respect for him when he didn't stand up to his party.

Kevin Elliott 3 years, 11 months ago

This is fine with me. much of the GOP's loss during the last presidential election was attributed to their policies on women, gay marriage and immigration.

They refuse to listen, it will bite them in behind during the next election cycle as well, on the national level.

Keep it up GOP, i love watching you shoot your own feet off.

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