Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) became the second GOP congressman initially supportive of some type of immigration legislation to publicly buck any efforts from President Barack Obama to grant amnesty to America’s at least 11 million illegal immigrants.
Gowdy said that the way President Obama handled himself during the fiscal fights, debt ceiling debate, and government shutdown is proof that Obama will not negotiate in good faith on immigration and that Republicans in the House should not even try.
“I think there is less trust now than in the three years I’ve been here,” Gowdy said. “So when I hear the president say immigration reform is coming next? No, it’s not.”
Gowdy is the principle sponsor of the SAFE Act, an interior enforcement immigration bill that House GOP leadership has signaled they may try to use to go to a conference committee with the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill.
As the fiscal deal that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling was being finalized, President Obama called on House leadership to try to push for immigration reform next. In an interview Obama did with Univision’s Los Angeles affiliate, he said he would push for it the “next day” after the fiscal deal was cut.
“Once that’s done, you know, the day after, I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform,” Obama said. “We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate. The only thing right now that’s holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.”
Obama said that House Republicans should open negotiations with him and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) using the Gang of Eight bill as a starting point. “Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them,” Obama said. “Let’s start the negotiations. But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years.”
Most conservatives believe that the House should shut down any immigration legislation, including Gowdy’s bill despite the fact that many conservatives support it on its individual merits, on the grounds that certain members of House GOP leadership are feared to want to use the SAFE Act and other individual bills as a means to get to a conference committee with the Senate bill. Gang of Eight members like Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have pleaded with House members and activists to get them to a conference committee, at which point Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says his Senate Democrats would “win.”
House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he wants to go to such a conference committee with the Senate to “fix” the Senate bill, and House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) have both left the door open to that outcome, as has House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH). Conservative activists from across the country on Friday called on Boehner to publicly close down any avenues through which the Senate bill or something even remotely like it could get through the House.
But Gowdy’s newfound pessimism on immigration, especially since he is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee that deals with these matters, is significant. It comes on the heels of Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a supporter of immigration reform, saying that it would be “crazy” for House leadership to negotiate with Obama and Reid on immigration legislation after the way they handled these fiscal fights.
“Absolutely not,” Labrador said on Wednesday in response to a question from Breitbart News whether the House should go to conference with the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill at Conversations with Conservatives, a press event hosted monthly by the Heritage Foundation’s Rob Bluey.
“If the president is going to show the same kind of good faith effort that he’s shown over the last couple of weeks, then I think it would be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with them on immigration,” Labrador said. “And I’m a proponent of immigration reform.”
“So, I think what he has done over the last two and a half weeks – he’s trying to destroy the Republican Party. And I think that anything that we do right now with this president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind, which is to destroy the Republican Party and not get good policies,” he explained. “Like I said earlier, we agree on things on tax reform, we agree on things on entitlement reform, there are things that we are on the same page about and if he is unwilling to negotiate on those things I don’t see how he could in good faith negotiate with us on immigration.”
Despite the push-back from some House Republicans initially supportive of immigration reform before having experienced Obama’s brash style of negotiating, the institutional left and allies of Obama and Wall Street are expected to continue their push for immigration reform against House Republicans.