Jeb Bush Urges House to Pass Senate-Like Immigration Bill

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is likely positioning himself to run for president in 2016, has swooped in to again endorse the “Gang of Eight” Senate immigration bill and advocate that House Republicans pass it--or a similar version of it. Bush had already endorsed the bill before, but is now calling on the House to pass it with a majority of Republicans.

“Now that the Senate has passed comprehensive immigration reform, the action shifts to the House of Representatives,” Bush and Goldwater Institute vice president for litigation Clint Bolick wrote in a joint op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Monday. 

“Here the GOP's informal 'Hastert Rule' requires Speaker John Boehner to have majority support among Republicans before he will bring legislation to the floor for a vote. That means an immigration bill will need a far greater share of Republican House members than the Senate version received (where fewer than one-third of Republicans voted ‘aye’).”

The heart of Bush's argument in favor of the bill is that he believes that no responsible Republicans or conservatives would support big government legislation--and, according to Bush, the Gang of Eight bill is not a big government solution.

“No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border,” Bush said. “Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform--and leave in place a system that does all of those things.”

Bush then tried to argue that the Senate bill adhered to small government Republican principles. 

“Overall, the bill satisfies a criterion that is essential to the rule of law: It makes it easier to immigrate legally than illegally,” Bush wrote. “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Senate bill would reduce the budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over 20 years, boost the economy and increase productivity, without reducing the wages of U.S. workers. In short, it advances Republican economic growth objectives.”

Bush did not, however, address how various economists and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) believe this bill would make it harder for Americans to find jobs, especially minorities--and that wages would be lower. Bush also left out how CBO said the bill would not stop illegal immigration; the nonpartisan bean-counting agency inside Congress determined that illegal immigration would continue at or about 75 percent of current illegal immigration rates if the bill ever became law. 

Bush similarly did not mention how the Heritage Foundation estimates legislation like the Gang of Eight immigration bill would increase the national deficit by about $6.3 trillion over its lifetime, largely by providing many millions of illegal immigrants access to America’s welfare programs and other government benefits.

Bush’s and others' push to make people believe the bill is not big government did not succeed in the Senate. Proponents of the bill failed to hit their self-described mark of 70 votes, garnering only 68 votes in favor of the bill as 14 GOP senators joined all Senate Democrats and Independents to vote for the bill. All of Senate Republican leadership opposed the bill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Whip John Cornyn and GOP conference chairman John Thune each voted against it.

In the House, GOP leadership considers the bill dead on arrival. House Speaker John Boehner has said as much on numerous occasions, and his deputies like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte have echoed those statements. 

Nonetheless, many in the institutional left, and those in the Republican establishment driving this bill, or something like it, are attempting to split up that strong conservative opposition.

Bush's call in the Journal on Monday is similar to calls last week from people like President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who each demanded Boehner and House Republicans set aside their conservative principles to take up this legislation.

Upon the bill’s Senate passage last week, President Obama issued a harsh call to House Republicans to support his agenda by passing this bill. “Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen," Obama said in the statement.

"The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me," he said. "But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I--and many others--have repeatedly laid out."


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