WASHINGTON — President Obama won the shutdown showdown and now has the upper hand in advancing his legislative agenda, declare the mainstream media with virtual unanimity.
But House Republicans appear to be in no mood to concede the war.
According to the Washington Post, “President Obama and his Democratic allies are using momentum from reopening government to renew their attempts to persuade House Republicans to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill by the end of the year.”
But, the president may actually be worse off, if he has now lost potential allies in Congress who were once sympathetic to one of his top goals.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of a bipartisan House group that had pushed a broad immigration bill, now says, “After the way the president acted over the last two or three weeks where he would refuse to talk to the speaker of the House … they’re not going to get immigration reform. That’s done.”
Indeed, the president who said “I will not negotiate” with the GOP over Obamacare, the debt ceiling or the government shutdown, said Thursday, “Let’s start the negotiations” on immigration.
Also already clamoring for an immigration bill are top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
“I look forward to the next venture, which is making sure we do immigration reform,” Reid, said late Wednesday.
“Good luck,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House immigration committee.
The president made getting a budget deal his top priority and passing an immigration bill second on his list.
But Obama’s relationship with Congress has been so troubled, he has not managed to pass a budget in four years. Now that his goodwill with the House has deteriorated to a new low, passing a budget appears even less likely. That would put immigration at the top of his wish list, but it is already getting a chilly reception in the House.
“It’s a little disingenuous to treat the House as an irrelevant branch of government and then say, ‘By the way, tomorrow you’ll need to go ahead and push (immigration reform),’” Gowdy said.
“It doesn’t work that way.”
The major disagreement on comprehensive immigration reform is over what supporters call a “pathway to citizenship” and critics call “amnesty.”
Supporters say they are concerned about the welfare of the millions of illegal aliens in the United States. Critics say the left just wants to add those millions to voter rolls and create a permanent majority for Democrats.
The enemy within
That’s what led Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to describe amnesty as a “Trojan horse” and to spell out in detail what she believes is the plan to legalize those millions of potential Democrats.
In an exclusive interview with WND, Bachmann explained how an immigration bill approving amnesty could make it through the Republican-controlled House without the approval of most GOP lawmakers.
She said the House will likely approve a bill blocking amnesty, but it will then go to a conference committee to reconcile it with a Senate bill allowing amnesty.
“The good guts of the Trojan horse bill will be pulled out,” she said. “The very bad amnesty provisions will be put in the bill. The bill will go to the House floor, and it won’t be Republicans that pass it.
“It’ll be Nancy Pelosi leading all the House Democrats to vote for it, and just enough Republicans will vote for the bill and you’ll have amnesty,” predicted Bachmann.
That would be a violation of the so-called “Hastert rule,” an agreement among GOP House members that the speaker bring no bill to the floor for a vote if it does not have the support of a majority of Republicans.
Since WND’s interview with Bachmann, House Speak John Boehner, R-Ohio, has agreed not to violate the Hastert rule on an immigration bill.
However, he just this week let the Senate bill funding the government (including Obamacare) and raising the debt ceiling pass in the House without a majority of Republicans voting for it.
WND columnist and former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said that is a dangerous sign, and, “[T]he formula and the path Obama and Senate Democrats hope Republican leaders will follow on the amnesty bill as well.”
“They do not need a majority of House Republicans to pass the bill, they only need two things. They need to get a “compromise bill” to the floor, and they need an air of panic and desperation among Republican leadership.”
Tancredo believes many Republicans would actually be relieved to cave on amnesty so they could move onto other issues.
“The problem is, there is no ‘going forward’ after the amnesty is enacted. Republicans will have enacted legislation that gives Democrats the keys to the kingdom, the kingdom of a perpetual and permanent Democrat majority.”
Bachmann said much the same back in June, telling WND, “The republic is at stake.”
The congresswoman predicted that if amnesty becomes the law “the whole political system will change.”
“This is President Obama’s No. 1 political agenda item because he knows we will never again have a Republican president, ever, if amnesty goes into effect. We will perpetually have a progressive, liberal president, probably a Democrat, and we will probably see the House of Representatives go into Democrat hands and the Senate will stay in Democrat hands.”
The lawmaker said that would create a permanent progressive class, and the country would never return to its constitutional foundations.
“That’s what’s at risk right now. It may sound melodramatic, I don’t mean it that way, but this is that big and that important.”
And, in fact, a Pew Hispanic Center survey in July discovered 31 percent of illegal aliens surveyed identified themselves as Democrats, 4 percent as Republicans.
House conservatives may have a weapon in the immigration battle they did not have during the government shutdown: popular support.
Speaking of immigration reform Thursday, President Obama said, “The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do.”
But the numbers don’t support that statement.
A poll released Wednesday showed only one out of every eight centrist voters strongly backs amnesty for illegal aliens.
The poll was paid for by NBC and Esquire Magazine and conducted by Obama’s 2012 pollster, Benenson Strategy Group, and Public Opinion Strategies, the pollster for GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
The firms said 51 percent of all voters are considered centrist.
A CBS poll in July found 56 percent of American adults want the border secure before any type of amnesty is granted to illegals.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll in April found 80 percent of American adults support “stricter border control to try to reduce illegal immigration.” This includes 93 percent Republicans, 76 percent Democrats, 83 percent Independents, 74 percent Blacks, 61 percent Hispanics and 75 percent of 18-39 year olds.
A PDK/Gallup poll in August said 55 percent of American adults oppose “providing free public education benefits to children of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.”
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth