Will House Republicans Follow the Money or Their Consciences on Immigration in 2014?

Ira Mehlman

1/5/2014 12:01:00 AM - Ira Mehlman

“Follow the money.” It’s still the surest way to trace the roots of a political disaster: Watergate, the S&L crisis, the mortgage meltdown, Obamacare, and just about every other avoidable mess that has shaken this nation over the past half century.

It will also be the surest way to trace the next political disaster if John Boehner and his inner circle of House Republican leaders decide to force through a package of immigration bills that include amnesty for illegal aliens, and massive increases in future immigration. The primary reason why Boehner and company might move on immigration in 2014 – perhaps the only reason – is money: lots and lots of it.

Granting amnesty to millions of people who broke our laws, who occupy millions of jobs in our economy, and who (along with their U.S.-born kids) consume billions of dollars in public resources, fails every test of good public policy, not to mention basic common sense. Vastly expanding access to new foreign workers at a time when more than 20 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed, and millions more find themselves downwardly mobile, would pound the final nail in the coffin of our once robust middle class.

Nevertheless, that sort of immigration “reform” is exactly what business interests in the United States are demanding, and they are prepared to spend huge sums of money to get it. Having invested heavily in winning approval by the Senate for S.744, the so-called Gang of Eight bill, these interests are likely to spare no expense to get the House to follow suit.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a $136 million a year lobbying juggernaut in Washington, has placed immigration at the top of its legislative wish-list. The Chamber’s lobbying effort is being spearheaded personally by the group’s president Thomas Donohue. Achieving this goal, said the New York Times, would be “the capstone to his long career.”

The collective fire power of the business lobby is aimed directly at Republican lawmakers in the House. Asserting de facto ownership of the party, the Chamber’s “mantra,” according to its chief political strategist Scott Reed, is “No fools on our ticket.” [Emphasis added.]

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chamber has set aside $50 million to “impose discipline” on Republicans who are not towing the Chamber’s line. Among the policy areas where the Chamber intends to impose discipline is in furtherance of their effort to “push ahead on at least incremental overhauls of the immigration system.” Given the resources of the Chamber, and the priority they are placing on amnesty and greater access to foreign workers, it is reasonable to assume that additional money could be forthcoming if it was deemed necessary to push their immigration agenda over the finish line.

The Chamber’s $50 million budget to steamroll politicians who try to stand in their way could be matched or exceeded by Mark Zuckerberg. Last fall, the Facebook founder announced plans to spend $50 million (his own and other tech titans’) to get an immigration bill through the House. Other billionaires, including George Soros, Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg, also stand ready to open their wallets.

President Obama and congressional Democrats have already chosen a side in the immigration debate: They’ll take the cash. They also stand ready to reap the votes of millions of future low-wage, government-dependent voters a decade or two down the line. A sizeable number of Senate Republicans have also opted to take the cash (without the prospect of long-term political benefits). More recently, Speaker Boehner indicated where his allegiances lie when he hired Rebecca Tallent, a political strategist for a business lobby group, to be his immigration policy advisor.

Now it is up to the rest of the House Republican caucus to decide if they will follow the money or follow their consciences. In siding with struggling American workers and taxpayers they risk alienating some very big campaign donors. But the alternative is nothing less than acquiescing to the demise of the middle class in America – an avoidable political, social and economic disaster from which this country is unlikely to ever recover.