Donor pressure for more cheap-labor immigration is splitting the House GOP’s leadership team of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to an article in Politico.
Ryan, who one leadership source said is in “legacy mode,” has long spoken of Dreamers in sympathetic terms. He’d like to address the matter before he leaves office next year after two decades in Congress.
But McCarthy wants to be speaker, and a DACA deal could jeopardize his chances, since conservatives hate the idea. Hard-line conservatives tanked McCarthy’s last bid for speaker in 2015, and the majority leader has made a concerted effort to court them in recent months.
The split was widened this week when the retiring Ryan and his presumptive replacement met with President Donald Trump as a group of 20 business-first Republicans uses the discharge-petition process to push for an amnesty vote before the midterm elections. Ryan pushed a stripped-down deal of amnesty-for-border-wall-cash, which would have junked most of Trump’s immigration-law reforms:
Ryan made the case for re-opening talks to find a possible immigration deal, according to several sources briefed on the meeting. Trump could get his wall with Mexico, Dreamers could get legal certainty and such a deal could stave off a potential shutdown fight this fall, went the pitch.
But Trump didn’t seem interested, the sources said. Rather than jumping at the opportunity to negotiate, he told Ryan and McCarthy that the so-called discharge petition to force a vote was the House’s problem.
McCarthy, notably, hasn’t been trying to change Trump’s mind — even though the California Republican is tight with the president. That’s probably because McCarthy simply isn’t interested. Asked briefly on Thursday about the possibility of a bipartisan DACA deal this year, he said, “I don’t see a path.”
The Politico story is bolstered by Ryan’s public statements.
In his May 11, press conference, Ryan endorsed an amnesty-for-wall deal, while ignoring Trump’s immigration-law reforms. On May 17, after Trump rejected his plan, Ryan suddenly described Trump’s reforms as “extremely reasonable.”
McCarthy has plenty of reasons to be cautious about the immigration issue — former Majority Leader Eric Cantor got fired overnight in a June 2014 primary because he pushed for an amnesty in spite of his constituents’ preferences.
The polls show that swing-voters strongly oppose a no-strings amnesty that would favor business over Americans.
Also, McCarthy is sticking with Trump because Trump’s support is vital for any elevation to House Speaker.
But Ryan is a business-first Republican who is working with donors to funnel tens of millions of dollars to the GOP legislators who are signing the discharge petition. Many of those legislators are in tough races — and donations from the cheap-labor business donors can help divert voters’ attention away from their unpopular support for amnesty.
The diverging interests of the two GOP leaders are not yet wide enough for a public split, or for GOP legislators to publicly demand a pre-election departure by Ryan. But Trump showed in 2016 how the cheap-labor immigration issue is powerful enough for even an outsider to defeat a platoon of establishment leaders.
The GOP’s third-ranking leader, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, is also splitting from Ryan by taking a harder line against the discharge-petition GOP members.
Read the Politico story here.