MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Immigration reform has been one of the hot-button topics for politicians in the last few years. As the Senate passed its version of immigration reform last week, all attention now turns to the House of Representatives and the rift developing in the Republican Party.
The GOP-led House plans to take up immigration, but will not hold a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill that passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The House will not bring the bill up because of an unwritten rule that Speaker John Boenher adheres to that says no bill will get to the floor without majority support from the majority party.
Speaker Boehner’s most conservative tea party members have already said the immigration reform bill is dead and Boehner himself declared the bill dead on arrival. With the more conservative base opposing any form of immigration, it’s creating a mini-civil war in the Republican Party.
On one side are establishment Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who have both come out in support of immigration reform. Senator Rubio worked in bipartisan fashion with Democrats in the Senate to pass the bill.
Rubio’s words have been used by groups on both sides of the issue, and Rubio has been in the crosshairs of flak from his own party. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Rubio has been attacked at Tea Party rallies (his name elicits boos), on conservative radio (“a piece of garbage,” Glenn Beck called him) and in National Review (“Rubio’s Folly,” declared a recent cover).”
Bush wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Monday asking the GOP-led House to vote on the senate bill. “Republicans have much in common with immigrants – beliefs in hard work, enterprise, family, education, patriotism, and faith,” Bush wrote in the Journal.
Establishment Republicans also recognize the growing power of the Hispanic vote, which went overwhelmingly in favor of President Barack Obama in both of the last elections. If the GOP fails to pass immigration reform, or kills reform, it runs the risk of alienating the Hispanic vote which could cripple the party in national elections.
At the same time, if Republicans in the House pass immigration reform that contains a pathway to citizenship that angers the conservative base, then the members in the House could face primary challenges from more conservative candidates next year which would put their job in jeopardy.
Former half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin has led the charge against immigration reform, along with much of conservative talk radio. Palin compared Senator Rubio to Judas over the weekend and also floated a third party if the GOP “abandons” the most conservative voters on issues like immigration, according to TheHill.com.
It leaves the Republican-led House in a tough position: pass immigration reform for the future good of the party, or, kill or water-down immigration reform to appease the voters who make up your base now and run the risk of your party becoming a minority in national elections.
All of the debate will also be going down as the Republican Party looks to make inroads in the Senate in 2014 while also holding on to the House. The longer the immigration reform plan stays in front of the House and on headlines, the less time the party has to target Democrats over other issues.