Former Bush Secretary: ‘There’s Damage Done’ when the Tea Party is involved

Right before leaving for the August recess, Speaker Boehner and House Republicans passed two bills that:

  • Roll back fundamental legal protections afforded to children fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries;
  • Expedite deportations without due process;
  • Kill DREAMers’ hopes of becoming Americans – and ruin their lives through deportations – by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Since then, the GOP’s callous moves have been blasted all over the media – with La Opinión, the nation’s largest Spanish language newspaper, calling it a “slap to immigrants.”  Prominent Republicans have weighed in.  Carlos Gutierrez, former Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush, recently said: “When you put Raúl Labrador, Steve King and Michele Bachmann together writing an immigration bill, there’s damage done, no question.”

And as the New York Times reports, the Tea Party is taking over the immigration agenda:

Late last month…the House Republicans’ top policy experts found themselves in a barren conference room in the Capitol’s basement, negotiating with the party’s most ardent opponents of immigration overhaul.

As senior members of the Judiciary Committee looked on, the opponents — Representatives Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and Mo Brooks of Alabama reshaped two bills to address the rush of unaccompanied children trying to enter the country illegally. Representatives Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, was were there, too, and she and Mr. King later took to Twitter to post photos of themselves approving the final language.

A legislative year in which Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio publicly set out to marginalize the more vocal right-wing members of his conference ended with them emboldened…

“This was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve had in my eight years in Congress,” Mrs. Bachmann said. “We were able to achieve unity across the conference in what is likely to be the most consequential issue of this time: immigration.”

on Capitol Hill, the Tea Party wing has continued to drive the party’s legislative agenda. Last winter, as House Republican leaders were drafting their “principles” for immigration overhaul, they largely disregarded the opponents of any form of legal status for immigrants in the country illegally, dismissing them as a loud but small minority. When that “minority” vocally opposed the principles, Mr. Boehner put the legislative effort in cold storage rather than highlight the divisions in his conference — even as he mocked House Republicans who feared moving forward with immigration legislation.

With Democrats united in opposition and Republicans divided, Republican leaders dropped plans to pass a stripped-down border-control spending bill…House Republicans did not want to leave Washington without addressing the crisis at the border.

In a surprise move, Mr. Boehner turned to the hard-liners he had sidelined.

“Those us of us who believed in border security were by and large cast aside,” Mr. Brooks said. “Funny how things can change real quickly when the only way you can pass legislation is to amend it our way. I hope House leadership will consider our various opinions to a greater degree than they have in the past.”

…little-known lawmakers like Mr. King and Mr. Brooks are not so obscure among Latinos.

Just days after helping write the House’s only immigration policy bill of the year, Mr. Brooks made waves again when he spoke of a “war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party” to the conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham. Mr. King was caught on tape grabbing the arm of a young immigrant who grew up in Arizona and was granted legal status by the president’s order. “You’re very good at English, you know what I’m saying?” he told the graduate of Arizona State University.

The GOP failure to act on immigration in common sense fashion, is an abdication of their responsibility to govern on behalf of the American people.  Mr. Boehner and the GOP have cemented their image as an intolerant, anti-immigrant party out of touch with the American mainstream.