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Boehner Rule Holds up Immigration Reform as Frustration Builds

by Javier Gonzalez, published

boehner rule on immigration reform Katherine Welles /

It seems like it was just yesterday President Obama won re-election helped in no small part by one of the widest margins of victories ever among Latino voters. Soon after, many Republicans began to openly pose concerns about Latinos not just voting Democrat, but voting overwhelmingly Democrat.

As Obama moved on immigration reform, right wing stalwarts like Grover Norquist and Karl Rove began to warn Republicans of the need to address immigration reform for practial economic reasons, and to reign in the margin of defeat for Republicans among Latinos. Immigration reform seemed as inevitable as taxes.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate created a bipartisan team of Senators to build a framework for what a workable compromise on immigration reform could be. Soon the "Gang of 8," as they were known, released their “Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” and Republicans seemed to be leading the effort with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio as its spokesperson. The framework became Senate Bill 744 with each side swallowing some tough pills.

S. 744 was presented as a great starting point from which a compromise in the House of Representatives was inevitable. The 1,200 page bill passed on June 27 68-32, including 14 Republicans voting yes.

But, just seven months later, the US House of Representatives has yet to take up that the Senate passed S. 744, leaving many immigrant rights advocates wondering where all the love for immigrants went.

But some, like Chris Newman, Attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and former lead attorney in the case against Arizona’s SB 1070, feel many reform activists ignored signs they were being duped.

“Comprehensive immigration reform has remained an elusive goal, in part, because many want it that way,” Newman asserts. “Members of both political parties have been content to blame the other side for a lack of progress, and meanwhile immigrants suffer as their lives remain a political football.”

 Whatever the reason for the failure to pass a comprehensive immigration package is, few would argue the prospects for passage decline daily. Newman, like many others are beginning to question the strategy and lack of accurate political analysis. Newman feels any bill on immigration that started in the Senate was doomed to be dismantled or altered beyond recognition in the current House of Representatives.

One specific flaws was to ignore House Speaker John Boehner’s open declaration that the “Boehner Rule” applied to immigration reform. The “Boehner Rule” is an informal practice begun by his Republican predecessor to refuse to introduce any bill to the house unless a majority of House Republicans (his own party) supported that bill.

This means any immigration bill that reaches the floor of the Senate would need at least 117 Republicans to support the bill. Pretty tough order from a heavily Tea Party influenced Republican House that bemoans any path to citizenship as “amnesty.”

Optimism and time are whittling as no one has presented a viable plan to either force Boehner to forgo his Boehner rule or actually get 117 Republicans to support a bill Democrats would pass in the Senate. So, what gives on immigration reform? Apparently, nothing.

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