In a lengthy interview on Friday afternoon, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) exposed how House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise strengthened President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty with procedural trickery former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber would envy—and they did it all in the name of pushing a bill that they told Republicans would block Obama’s executive amnesty.
What’s more is that a series of interviews and recent developments indicate that Boehner’s gambit here is placing several of his top lieutenants—including at least two committee chairmen—at political risk of serious primary challenges just a few months after newly elected Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) beat now former House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a Republican primary.
Gohmert said most members had no idea what they were actually voting for when 219 members—216 of which were Republicans—approved a measure, H.R. 5759, first put forward by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), but subsequently dramatically altered by leadership officials in the Rules Committee process.
“I was a cosponsor of the original Yoho bill. I thought it was a very decent bill, it was very short—it was only about a page and a half—and it basically said that anything the president did in violation of current law including what he’s done with ordering work permits for people who are illegally here, it’s illegal,” Gohmert said.
It’s outside the constitutional bounds. If you came through the Speaker’s lobby on the way to the House floor as so many people do, there’s tables there in the Speaker’s lobby that have copies of all the official bills we are taking up that day. There was official copies of H.R. 5759 out there—and they were the short page and a half bill that Representative Yoho had originally filed. But the night before there was an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 5759—what that means is that it’s a new bill. It’s different but it’s going to substitute in its entirety the original bill. It had some of Yoho’s original language in it but they eliminated from the title the word “amnesty” and replaced it with “executive overreach.” Then they had a bunch of ‘findings’ that sounded tough that make it clear the president is not authorized to do what he did. Section One is the short title of the bill. Section Two is the findings that got added, which sounded tough. Section Three is the operative section though.
Gohmert walked Breitbart News through the text of Section Three of the new bill line by line, explaining how each word fits into the legal patchwork of immigration law before getting to the key additions that were made without notifying many of the members who voted for it.
“They added another section called ‘exceptions.’ And the exceptions part says this ‘shall apply except’ and then there’s three parts,” Gohmert said while reading the actual text of the bill on the phone with Breitbart News.
The third one is “for humanitarian purposes where the aliens are at imminent risk of serious bodily harm or death.” That’s what they added. Well, this president has been arguing for months that the things he’s doing is because these people are at imminent risk of serious bodily harm and that’s why he’s doing them. So actually by adding this exception it gives the president for the first time a solid statutory basis to argue that providing those work permits is now legal.
Gohmert said that this addition gives President Obama a foot in the door for a legal argument justifying executive amnesty.
“By adding that exception to the original bill, we would now give the president the statutory authority to do what he’s doing to issue these work permits,” Gohmert said. “I know that this language is in there for people claiming asylum and for refugee status, but not ever for providing work permits. But by adding this to this bill that’s supposed to claim his effort to provide work permits is illegal, unconstitutional, and inappropriate, the exception that was added gives him a statutory basis for arguing his work permits are now statutorily allowed.”
“I understand that the president issued a veto threat if we were going to pass this, but I think that was to give this bill more credibility after this language was added,” Gohmert added. “I understand Harry Reid said he’s never going to take this up. But if Harry Reid took it and passed it in the Senate, and the president signed it, then I think it gives the president a statutory basis to argue he has the power to issue these work permits now.”
Gohmert says that even he doesn’t think that it should be interpreted as such—just that it gives the president something to lean on. “I don’t necessarily agree that this should be interpreted that this exception gives the president the authority to do what he’s done,” Gohmert said. “What I’m saying is this gives him the argument that it does.”
However, Yoho’s office challenges the assertion that this loophole that was inserted into his new bill—which his office does admit was an “alternative” bill, different than his original legislation—would give the president such a legal argument.
Yoho spokesman Brian Kaveney told Breitbart News that “that exception already exists under the Executive’s constitutional foreign affairs powers – Chinese in Tiananmen Square, Cubans in the 1960s, etc.”
“Obama is not using a humanitarian argument for his actions; he is citing prioritization and prosecutorial discretion for his legal bases,” Kaveney said.
Even if he were using a humanitarian argument, his actions would not fit these exceptions. Previous presidents simply granted voluntary departure to certain children and spouses to match congressional legislation – clearly much different than what Obama is attempting to do. Even Obama would have a hard time explaining how 5-8 million people, already here, are under threat of imminent risk of serious bodily harm or death. That exception was specifically written that way to pay respect to the foreign policy powers previously discussed but limit any other wild interpretation.
Yoho’s bill is the centerpiece of Boehner’s plan to pass a longterm CR-omnibus strategy that funds Obama’s executive amnesty until at least March 2015, and probably forever.
Nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham cut Yoho to pieces in an interview last week in which Yoho had no idea how to explain what he was doing.
“Congressman, you know I like you,” she told him. “We’ve had you on before. But I’m just going to say it because I say the truth.”
“All right,” Yoho responded.
“I think you’re getting played here,” she said. “I really do.”
Congressman, you are giving the establishment the cover that they desperately crave because they know America is onto this. We’ve been played for fools before. “We’re going to fight for you, we’re going to stop this. Da da da. We have limited ability to do this. We don’t have Congress, we’re gonna wait until January to do this.” Then we find out it’s an omnibus spending bill that funds the whole government until the end of next summer, taking away a lot of opportunity to really hone in on those specifics. So my question here is a simple one, because I think you are one of our real hopes here—I really do.
“Well, I appreciate that,” Yoho interjected.
“In March, has Boehner guaranteed to you he will pick up where Jeff Sessions left off, because Sessions has the right play here—he knows how to deal with this,” Ingraham asked. “Has he pledged to you he will replace this bill with the Sessions bill?”
Yoho ducked in his response. “We haven’t gone that far,” he said. “And again, Laura, what we’re dealing with is crisis management up here. Over and over again.”
Gohmert said that it was House GOP leadership who made the changes to the Yoho legislation and they did so through the Rules Committee.
“All I know is that someone from our leadership sent the Rules Committee on Wednesday night, right before the Rules Committee met, emailed them this new version—the new version—of 5759 and so that’s what the Rules Committee took up late the night before, this amendment in the nature of a substitute,” Gohmert said when asked if he knows who made the specific alterations. “I don’t know who specifically sent it to Rules, but this was sent to Rules from someone in our leadership saying this is the new bill, it’s an amendment in the nature of a substitute and this is what we want to come to the floor tomorrow.”
“Normally it would be from either the Majority Leader’s office or the Speaker’s office,” Gohmert added when asked which person from GOP leadership would have done this. The Majority Whip Scalise’s role in this, Gohmert said, was whipping votes for the original—not the alternative—Yoho bill.
“We were being whipped—or asked if we were going to vote for the Yoho bill—a day before they even put this new language, the amendment in the nature of a substitute, up,” Gohmert said. “That went up on the Rules Committee website late on Wednesday night, but on Tuesday they were asking people if they were going to vote for the Yoho bill. They were doing a whip count. They were doing a whip count on the Yoho bill without people even knowing what they were going to be adding to it.”
Yoho’s office admits that other congressional offices were involved in the alterations to his legislation, but won’t name names. “A few conservative offices reached out to us regarding wanting to make language more explicit and make sure it statutorily makes sense,” Yoho spokesman Brian Kaveney said.
We also wanted to focus on the fact that this was an overreach. The humanitarian exception was added because given Rep. Yoho’s strong Constitutional views, we did not want our bill to overreach into the foreign affairs powers that presidents have (again, not saying we agree, but these powers have been affirmed by jurisprudence). Without this exception, we risked having a possible constitutional flaw that might have threatened the bill. That was a determination and decision that was made by our office, given Rep. Yoho’s Constitutional principles.
Kaveney has not responded to followup requests for comment to say which “conservative offices” were involved in these changes or if those “conservative offices” included anyone from leadership. It’s worth noting that Yoho did vote against Boehner for Speaker at the beginning of the last Congress and may do so again in the future.
Kaveney did, however, insist on making clear that Yoho’s original bill was his own creation—and something he took to leadership, not the other way around.
“We took this bill to leadership. Not the other way around. We are the ones who asked them to bring this on the floor,” Kaveney said.
Members were not provided the new text of the bill before they were asked to vote on it, either—something that should infuriate Americans, Gohmert said.
“I checked with the clerk before I left the House floor yesterday to see if there were any copies that were made available for members with these new changes on there,” Gohmert said.
The clerk said that they had to make the changes on their own copy but if someone wanted them to make them a copy, they’d certainly make them a copy—but they’d have to leave the floor and go into an adjoining office and make a copy. But the copies that were available did not have these changes in there. If you wanted to see this, you’d have to do it one of two ways—you’d have to know to go the Rules Committee website and download what they actually approved for the House floor very late Wednesday night. The only other way would be to go to the Clerk’s desk there right below the Speaker’s and say you would like a copy not of 5759, but of the amendment in the nature of a substitute. If you asked for the bill, you would get 5759—which we did not vote for. But if you asked for the amendment in the nature of the substitute, you would get the newly penciled language.
When asked if this is getting into “you have to pass it to find out what’s in it” territory—the famous line from then Speaker Nancy Pelosi about Obamacare—Gohmert said, “that’s what concerns me.” Gohmert said this bill and the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was packed with legislative pork and federal land grab provisions, are violations of Republicans’ promises to the American people in the wake of Jonathan Gruber’s Obamacare passage.
“There were not three days for members to review this language,” Gohmert said.
There were not three days to review the NDAA, and I voted against the NDAA because we didn’t know everything that was in it. That’s a big bill and it of course it is very important—and I didn’t have time to read it. It was again provided to Rules Committee the night before, and yes I understand that much of it was work was that done by our Appropriations Committee. I get that. I understand that. But it was not available in sufficient time for anybody who did not help write it to pick it up and read it start to finish before they voted on it. That’s something we promised in 2010: If you give us the majority, we’re going to read the bills and we’re going to give sufficient time for people to read the bills. But as I talked to people on the House floor yesterday and I asked: “Did you read this exception that got added to the Yoho bill?” Most of the people did know there was an exception. [They said,] “no, I’ve read it; there wasn’t an exception.” Well, yes there was an exception. My staff had printed it out for me from the Rules Committee’s website of what they actually approved to go to the floor. I was wanting an actual copy to be made available for members on Thursday, but there were no such copies of the amendment in the nature of a substitute made available to members.
During the Rules Committee hearing at which Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) made the changes to the original Yoho bill via the amendment in the nature of a substitute on behalf of McCarthy and Boehner, Sessions made a crucial mistake during a back-and-forth with amnesty advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
In the hearing, Pete Sessions said that House Republicans “intend to push a bill” in the next Congress that would in effect create a legal open borders situation “that would operate under the activity of trying to do under rule of law.”
“What we would do in the House, move to the Senate, move to the President – and Mr. [Bob] Goodlatte [the Judiciary Committee chairman] is committed in his job to do the right thing and to work with the Administration,” Pete Sessions said. “But that, even in our wildest dream, would not be to remove any person that might be here unless they were dangerous to this country and committed a crime; and we would not even – that was never even in a plan that I thought about.”
A moment later, Pete Sessions further described his plans as pure open borders where anyone who wants to come to America to take U.S. jobs from anywhere in the world can do so. “I’m going to use my assets and resources in the new year to work with this Congress, including [Democratic Rep. Jared] Polis [of Colorado], to have a well understood agreement about what the law should be, and how we as communities, and farm communities, and tech communities create circumstances where we can have people be in this country and work, and where not one person is quote ‘thrown out’ or ‘deported;’ where we do keep families together, but what we do is we do so under a rule of law of an understanding,” Pete Sessions said.
Pete Sessions, a top ally of Speaker Boehner’s who runs the Rules Committee which has enormous power over the legislative process in the House by setting the terms of debate of legislation on the House floor, survived a primary challenge earlier this year from conservative Republican Katrina Pierson. Pierson, a Tea Party activist and first-time congressional candidate, got into the race a bit late and didn’t have a ton of money—and despite a drubbing in the liberal media over some things from her past, managed to garner 36 percent of the vote in the primary.
Videos that broke via Breitbart Texas in the days right before the primary showed Pete Sessions supports amnesty for illegal aliens so he can “accommodate” them, something Pierson hammered him over. Pierson told Breitbart News in response to Sessions’ latest pro-amnesty and open borders comments during the recent Rules Committee hearing to push through Yoho’s bill that she’s considering another run against him in 2016—something that, assuming she has the funding up front, she could give Sessions a much more organized run for his money this time around.
“If we have a country left come 2016, and Pete Sessions is still in office, I may consider another run,” Pierson said in an email.
The plan Pete Sessions said he’ll be backing with all his power seems to be emerging in the House. Reuters on Sunday published an exclusive report detailing how GOP leadership is coalescing behind a plan amounting to amnesty for millions of illegal aliens; it would first start with a border security bill but “may lead to other steps the House of Representatives could contemplate to repair parts of U.S. immigration law.”
Ingraham suggested on her radio program on Friday that Pete Sessions’ stance for open borders as he laid out during that Rules Committee hearing is an indication he may be doing consulting work for Central American nations seeking to send more of their citizens to the United States legally or illegally.
“Is Pete Sessions working with Guatemala and Honduras to bring more people into the country?” Ingraham asked. “You might as well be. He’s putting a welcome mat for anyone who wants to come into this country illegally today.”
Ingraham challenged Pete Sessions to come on her program to discuss his immigration stance, “to see if he’ll have a conversation with me about what they’re planning to do with this immigration reform, what they’re planning to do to sell out American worker.”
What House leadership is planning to introduce early this coming week, and to push for a vote on sometime this week, is a plan that funds all of government except for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the end of the 2015 fiscal year in September. It splits DHS funding off into a shorter term bill that ends sometime in March, giving off the impression that the new Republican U.S. Senate and emboldened House GOP majority will fight the funding for Obama’s amnesty then.
Even so, Boehner has not pledged he will fight it then—and most conservatives believe that he will avoid the battle at that time especially after what Boehner’s allies did to get the Yoho bill passed—and the lengths to which Boehner’s lieutenants are going to mislead the Republican conference and the American people about the nature of blocking funding for Obama’s amnesty.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) has been chief among those using the factually incorrect argument that Congress can’t block funding for Obama’s amnesty because the agency that is handling it, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is funded primarily by fees. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) thoroughly debunked Rogers’ claims that Congress can’t block this funding because of the fee-based structure of USCIS in a report compiled for incoming Senate Budget Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). But Rogers continues to peddle the falsehood in public more than a week after CRS proved him wrong, telling Fox News’ Chad Pergram for an article published late last week that Congress can’t block the funding.
“There’s nothing more that I would like to do than defund USCIS,” Rogers claimed to Pergram. “I wish I could but we have to find another way to do what we want to do.”
Ingraham has vowed to seek a suitable primary challenger to Rogers in this upcoming election cycle, something that the United Kentucky Tea Party says they’re working on looking for—broken exclusively by Breitbart News then subsequently highlighted by the New York Times. The vows to seek a Rogers primary challenger come after a Breitbart News investigation which discovered his campaign contributor General Dynamics is seeking the contract to print all the work permits, Social Security cards, and other documents Obama plans to give illegal aliens under the executive amnesty, and that the company expects to do so at a facility inside Rogers’ congressional district in Corbin, Kentucky, should it get the contract.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) is quoted opposite Rogers in Pergram’s piece, noting that Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus promised to block the funding for Obama’s amnesty if voters delivered the GOP the U.S. Senate majority, as they did, and that Boehner’s team said they would fight Obama’s amnesty “tooth and nail.”
“I’m not happy,” Mulvaney said. “Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus said we were going to do everything we can to fight the president. The Speaker and his spokesman said we were going to fight it ‘tooth and nail. To defund would be fighting tooth and nail. I can understand going home and saying we tried and it didn’t work. But we have to at least try.”
Gohmert said that what the House should do is pass a short-term Continuing Resolution—killing the omnibus appropriations bill altogether—with the language blocking Obama’s amnesty in it. That’s something Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), the incoming chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, has pushed for too.
“I think we ought to do a short-term CR but include the defund language in it,” Gohmert said. “That’s what we ought to do next week. And when I say ‘short-term’ I don’t mean March. As you know, the president’s already got a facility in Virginia and is hiring a thousand people to start issuing those permits. This can’t wait until March. We have to do this now. And I do want to mention if this president worked as diligently and faithfully on helping our veterans and helping those trapped in Benghazi as he has rushing in to getting these permits issued for people illegally here, this country would be a lot better off.”
The Yoho bill was designed to let Republicans “vent their frustrations with President Obama’s unilateral move,” The Hill’s Cristina Marcos wrote, with the goal being it will allow Boehner to tamp down opposition to the omnibus bill from within his own party. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) said it would less expensive and just as effective for House Republicans to “send the president a Hallmark card saying we don’t like your immigration ideas.”
Boehner knows he may need Democrat votes to pass the omnibus spending bill, and, according to several reports last week, his leadership team met with top Democrats including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer—Pelosi’s right-hand man—to work out a deal to get Democrats to back the plan. But with this development—that Boehner and his allies substantively altered the cover vote bill in a way that helps the legal argument for Obama’s amnesty—there may be enough Republican opposition that develops in the coming days to derail Boehner’s plans once again.
Gohmert notes there are quite a bit of similarities between this fight right now and the fight right before the August recess in the House over whether to send Obama more money for the border crisis or whether to block funding for his first executive amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“This reminds me of what happened this summer when we had a good group of Republicans who put together the points that we believed in, the principles that we believed in about border security and immigration,” Gohmert said.
They put together some very good principles that we all as Republicans in the House agreed on. Then the Speaker assured everybody that we had a bill getting drafted up that incorporated those principles. I asked to get the name or names of those who were drafting the bill to encapsulate those principles and I was not given the name or names. I expressed concern that it might be the person that Mr. Boehner hired from John McCain’s office who had worked on amnesty for John McCain. I was called down for that. But I knew that the Judiciary Committee which has general oversight over immigration did not do the bill. I knew that the immigration subcommittee did not do the bill. And so I never could find out who actually drafted it. And so they had a Whip Team going around asking people, asking Republicans, “will you vote for the new border bill that encapsulates all our principles that we agreed to unanimously?” Well, they whipped the bill without anyone ever seeing the bill.
Because members were telling leadership they would support the border crisis principles—but were unclear what was in the actual legislation—leadership’s plan fell apart hours before the vote. It was Scalise’s first massive failure as Majority Whip because leadership thought they had the votes to pass the bill but, at the last minute, had to cancel the scheduled vote and keep Congress in for an extra day before the August recess.
“So they had a good whip count on Tuesday of the last week of July without anyone ever seeing the bill—and I didn’t get it until Tuesday night, my staff got it that afternoon,” Gohmert said.
I read it that Tuesday night and finished about 2 a.m., then laid down and got back up at 5 a.m. and re-read it and knew that it was as bad as I thought it was the first time I read it. Wednesday was all about trying to let our members know that this bill does not encompass our principles. In fact, it does just the contrary. Once enough people were able to look at it, they said, “wait, I can’t support this. I didn’t agree to that.” Then the Speaker went from having the votes to pass to not having the votes to pass it. We were able to back off and sit down and a number of us cleaned up the parts that were de facto amnesty. By Friday night around 10 p.m., we were able to pass a decent border bill. But this seems a little bit along those same lines—that “gee, we’re going to get people to commit to pass a bill without ever seeing what it is that we’re going to pass.”
After the House got together around the conservative bill—from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)—the Democrats melted down entirely on the House floor. The sergeant-at-arms had to remove an unhinged Pelosi, who chased Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) across the floor of the House, wagging her finger in his face in anger.
Yoho’s office even says his bill wasn’t enough.
“Rep. Yoho would absolutely support legislation that goes after funding,” Yoho’s spokesman Kaveney said. “Again, we are simply tackling this from a different angle. Everyone was talking about funding. Rep. Yoho wanted to try something different. In addition to, not instead of.”
While it remains to be seen what exactly will go down, Gohmert said the Democrats will likely come even more unhinged than Pelosi’s midsummer performance if Republicans buck Boehner’s CR-omnibus strategy next week.
“If we do what we should next week, and stand firm on our convictions, we might get to see former Speaker Pelosi chase Tom Marino and maybe someone else up the aisle,” Gohmert joked at the end of the interview.
In the meantime, Senator-elect Tom Cotton (R-AR)—currently a House GOP member—is urging Americans to burn down Congress’s phone lines in the effort to blow up Boehner’s plans to back Obama’s amnesty.
“Call your Congressman and call your Senator,” Cotton said on Ingraham’s radio program on Friday.
I assure you having been in the Congress that Congressmen and Senators listen when the people they serve, their bosses, are calling them and asking them to vote in a certain way. I can assure you, and it’s been the case on immigration before. In 2007, there were reports that the Capitol switch board actually stopped working because so many people called, and asked their Senators and Congressmen to stop an amnesty bill going through at the time, and it stopped. And it helped in 2013 when the House was on the verge of considering something like the Gang of Eight bill in the Senate, so I would encourage you to call your Senator, call your Congressman next week and in the new year.
And on Fox News on Sunday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)—the incoming chairman of the Budget Committee—said that “there is no way” any members of the House or Senate will be able to actually read “this huge bill” when leadership introduces it. Leadership has been keeping the omnibus secret until now and, still as of Sunday evening, hasn’t introduced it.
“There’s going to be thousands of pages passed maybe Monday night in the House,” Sessions said.
But what we do know is it will allow the president to move money around and fund his executive amnesty program. We just discovered last week that they were renting a building across the river here Crystal City [Virginia] hiring a thousand people to process these identifications of illegal people. They’ll be given a photo ID, a Social Security number, allowed to participate in Social Security and Medicare, and be able to work anywhere in America taking any job in America—we don’t have enough jobs today, so this will be 5 million more people. So I was hoping and still hope that the House will put real language in their bill that controls that. Some say it can’t be done, but it was done on Guantanamo for years now. We have refused to fund and provide the president money to close Guantanamo because it would result in a release of dangerous terrorists.