Boehner In a Box

Will Boehner and his caucus deep-six immigration reform?

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Really, who would like to be in John Boehner's shoes right now? His caucus is harder to deal with than a nest full of angry wasps.

They even started a petition to get the fifty signatures necessary to bring up a hard and fast rule for the Republican caucus that no bill could be brought to the floor without a majority of Republicans supporting it. (So much for bipartisanship!)

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., is the force behind it and created a nasty furor among Republicans. Even Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., has threatened to stage a coup against the Speaker if he doesn't agree.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

This, of course, would have prevented the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, help for victims of Hurricane Sandy and legislation at the end of 2012 to avoid going over the so-called "fiscal cliff." None of these bills had a majority of Republicans, but rather needed bipartisan support to pass.

That brings us to immigration. As the Senate discovered long ago, this has to have bipartisan support to go anywhere. It involves compromise and much negotiation among serious legislators, starting with the gang of eight.

House Republicans are clearly another matter. The blowback has forced Speaker Boehner to not only commit to having a majority of his caucus on board with immigration legislation, but also to declare that he doesn't favor a "comprehensive solution" on immigration, aka the Senate bill.

So, once again, the speaker is in a vice – does he help engineer the passage of immigration reform, enraging much of his caucus, or does he bow to their wishes to do border security and very little else.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

As usual, efforts by some to put the speaker in handcuffs create a whole set of political problems for the Republican party. Votes on restricting abortion, abolishing Obamacare and cracking down on immigrants may make some caucus members feel good, but they do little to expand the Republicans' political tent. In fact, they drive away young people, minorities and moderates from the party.

Boehner now has to thread the needle – pass some legislation on immigration that his party can stomach, go to a conference committee with the Senate and then pass something that will get bipartisan support, but not have a majority of his caucus on board. 

Will this be enough to keep his angry wasps from swarming all over him or will it result in another rebellion? Will Boehner and his caucus deep-six immigration reform or will they come to their senses and proceed into the 21st Century? Or, to quote Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will Republicans continue to fall further into their "demographic death spiral" by refusing to pass a reform bill?

It may well come down to the ability of Boehner to control his troops. Not an easy task.

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