When Congress gets back to Washington after Labor Day, among the long list of pressing business the House is not expected to get to before the end of the year is immigration reform. Before members down that last hotdog in front of the electorate this weekend, one group is hoping to catch their attention on this issue.
A national coalition of voters who describe themselves as evangelical Christians is financing a TV ad blitz in certain Congressional districts, including our S.C. District 5 represented by Mick Mulvaney (R-Indian Land), asking the House to take up the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. Specifically, the coalition, the Evangelical Immigration Table, wants Congress to pass a law that creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents.
One of the group’s branches in the South calls itself the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Like others in the coalition, these evangelicals say they speak for the majority of their congregations in calling on the federal government to act on humanitarian grounds. It’s the Christian thing to do, they insist, to allow families to stay together and present an opportunity to those who are here illegally, but otherwise have stayed on the right side of the law while working hard and building lives in their adopted country.
Most Americans polled feel that way, too. Unfortunately, all it takes is a couple of people to stand in the way of what the vast majority of the nation wants. The House leadership, mainly Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), refuses to budge out of fear that carrying out the will of the people – which is how a democracy is supposed to function – will trigger retaliation from the far right wing of the GOP, aka the Tea Party. On paper, the Tea Party faction of the GOP is clearly a minority, but it wields just enough influence in key districts across the country to make traditionally middle-of-the-road Republicans bend its way.
Boehner all but admits a reconciled version of the Senate bill would likely pass on an up-or-down vote by the full House with just enough Republicans joining a majority of Democrats, which is how it got through the Senate. However, he said he won’t bring it to the floor unless most Republicans, “a majority of the majority,” favor it, which is not only ludicrous, but exhibits a failure of Boehner’s leadership. Is there any issue Mr. Boehner considers more important than holding onto his Speakership?”
And that’s if it even gets to be Boehner’s call as Rep. Bob Goodlatte, head of the House Judiciary Committee – remember, immigration is a legal issue – said this week he opposes a path to citizenship and will not be moved.
That’s why it’s important that Mulvaney and other House members get the message that most of their constituents want the U.S. to create a path to citizenship. We couldn’t get a “yes” or “no” answer out of Mulvaney this week on whether or not he supports a path, only that he “does not support the senate bill,” according to his spokesperson. We see room in that answer for hope, considering the version of the bill Mulvaney doesn’t support now would likely not be the same version he would vote on – if House members get the chance.
This can be a defining moment for the Republican Party. Will its leadership show that it heard the broader electorate when it re-elected a Democrat, President Barack Obama, and handed the GOP a net loss in the House and the Democrats a net gain? And that’s not because the country is becoming more liberal, but rather because the GOP is becoming too extremely conservative for moderate Republicans and independents especially to feel comfortable.
What else can you say about a political party in which ideological purists hurl ugly putdowns at staunch conservatives like Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), derided recently as a left-leaning “community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, is what business owners want. It’s what practicing Christians and Jews – who make up the majority of the faith community in the U.S. – want and it’s what a majority of Americans want. We hope the new TV ads and the litany of other voices get through to Mulvaney and the rest of the House: You need to get this done. Now.