Boehner's Almost Impossible Immigration Task

The speaker has to wrangle the House GOP into passing immigration reform.

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John Boehner.
National Republican leaders are feeling the pressure to build a broader coalition of Latino support.

No person's life, liberty and property are secure while the legislature is in session. But Americans can relax for a couple of weeks because Congress is taking a brief Fourth of July break.

The Senate just passed an immigration reform bill by an overwhelming margin and the first challenge House Speaker John Boehner will face when Congress returns is getting an immigration bill passed. The prospects for immigration reform took a beating when the speaker was unable to muster the votes from his caucus to pass the farm bill. The farm bill is Congress 101. If the speaker can't do the farm bill, how will he ever get an immigration package through the House?

But pass an immigration reform bill, Boehner must. Boehner is one of the many Republicans in Washington who know that the failure of Congress to pass a reform bill would create a disaster of biblical proportions for the GOP. In 2012, Latinos gave President Barack Obama 71 percent of their votes. If Republican block immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens, it will be even worse in 2016, because population trends mean that even more Latinos will vote that year.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

Stephen Colbert once said that the two words that scared the GOP more than anything else were "buenos dias." Republicans have reason enough to worry.

The Karl Roves and John Boehners of the world care about the national standing and presidential prospects of the Republican party. The problem is that Tea Party enthusiasts only care about ideological purity and the prospects of seeing an even more conservative challenger in the primary. This creates a situation where Boehner has about as much control over the Republican caucus as I do.

On a Sunday morning talk show recently, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued an apocalyptic warning to his own party. Graham said his party is already in a downward demographic death spiral and failure to reform the broken immigration system will accelerate the process. Not that I care about the GOP, but Graham is right.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

But the influence of the Tea Party is apparent in the experience of another GOP Senator. Marco Rubio of Florida was one of the gang of eight senators who crafted the Senate immigration bill. Then Rubio got big time heat from the Tea Party extremists for supporting reform. Since then, Rubio has been trying to distance himself from his own proposal.

I'll leave it to congressional historians to decide whether or not Boehner is the worst speaker in the history of House of Representatives, but I'm sure he would at least be a finalist for the dishonor. The Gallup organization recently reported that only one of every 10 Americans has a positive opinion of Congress. This horrible rating is the lowest approval rate that Gallup has measured for any institution in the long history of the Gallup Poll. How low can it go?

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