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Is Boehner trying to win over party extremists by joining immigration lawsuit?

Anu Joshi • Jan 28, 2015

Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel sorry for newly re-elected House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). The latest reason? His decision to have the House vote to join the state’s lawsuit against the president’s executive action on immigration. Now, of course, in all public comments, he’s parroted the right-wing extremist’s talking points on the evils of the president’s decision to protect millions of immigrant parents from deportation, but it seems there’s a larger political calculus at foot.

The Speaker’s need for a political juggernaut on immigration within his caucus is no better highlighted than by his inability to whip the Republican votes needed to pass the McCaul border bill on the House floor this week (an extreme bill that would force the government to waste taxpayer dollars on an un-needed border fence and increased technology and surveillance at the border). The Speaker was forced to pull the bill from a vote after it became clear extremists in his caucus were not going to support it.

What does this have to do with the lawsuit against the administration? (The lawsuit was aptly described by the NY Times as “a meritless screed wrapped in flimsy legal cloth.”) Well, now, Speaker Boehner is on the hunt for Republican votes on immigration once again, this time for a spending bill to keep the doors of Department of Homeland Security open, and he’s hoping he can cajole some of the more extreme members of his caucus to vote for a funding bill, by promising them action in federal court.

At the end of last year, Republican leadership couldn’t get their caucus coalesced around a funding plan for DHS agreeable to Democrats and so made the decision to punt to the next Congress by only authorizing funding for the department until February 27th—thereby assuring another bruising round of political theater as Congress has a must-pass funding bill to pass in order to prevent the department from shutting down come February 28th.

Although the House already sent a funding authorization bill to the Senate, the bill is riddled with so many extremist measures (notably ending both deferred action for DREAMers and for immigrant parents) it’s unlikely to pass the Senate as is, because Senate Democrats have decided they will stand united in opposition to any riders attached to the funding bill.

That means the Speaker will have to convince enough members of his caucus to vote yes on a non-extremist bill to fund DHS, no easy feat.

It seems the Speaker is hoping to placate the extremist members of his own Party by this extracurricular activity of suing the President in order to gain him the goodwill he needs to pass this must-pass funding bill.

Anyone’s guess if the likes of Sen. Sessions (R-AL) and Rep. King (R-IA) can be silenced. It doesn’t seem to have worked yet.

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