With the announced resignation of John Boehner from his seat in Congress, the future of immigration reform once again hangs in the balance. Boehner’s resignation from his position as Speaker of the House is being celebrated by conservatives across the Republican Party, as he was constantly chided by the far right as being too conciliatory to the Democrats. Yet there could be an opening on legislation, depending on who takes his seat. It could also provide an opening for Senator Marco Rubio.
The GOP had grown weary of Boehner, with the latest NBC/WSJ poll showed a whopping 72 percent of GOP voters were dissatisfied with Speaker Boehner.
With an impeding shutdown of the government over the funding of Planned Parenthood, which has no chance of passing anyways, the Republicans are poised to go into the long Presidential election of 2016 with a strong statement about the values of the GOP.
This could be bad news for Jeb Bush, long seen as the moderate adult in the room who could run for President closer to the middle on issues that might excite conservatives against him, namely his propensity to reach out to Latino voters. Mr. Boehner’s resignation will undoubtedly embolden the conservatives who are skeptical of Mr. Bush’s overtures to conservative ideals and policies, and who Mr. Bush as a shell conservative.
If Mr. McCarthy rises to Speaker and Mr. Rubio manages to ride the conservative wave to the White House, perhaps their strong credibility with conservatives will allow them the space they need to finally make progress on our immigration problems
On the other hand, Marco Rubio’s star seems to be shining a little brighter this morning. When he announced Mr. Boehner’s resignation this morning at a breakfast function, the crowd cheered. This is a decided victory for conservatives, and Rubio has shown the most promise in ability to woo the crowd with his personal stories and patriotic appeals. He has also never walked back from ingratiating himself with right wing organizations, despite his short attempt at immigration reform.
The stage seems fit for Rubio to make up some distance in the primary elections, and if he becomes seen as the only other candidate with a chance to win whose name isn’t Bush, Mr. Rubio could ride that sentiment on the backs of conservatives who will feel more confident in his commitment to conservative ideals than Bush is.
On the other hand, the odds on favorite to replace Mr. Boehner is Kevin McCarthy, the current House Majority Leader. Mr. McCarthy is widely seen and appreciated as being more conservative than Boehner. However, McCarthy also happens to represent a district which includes Bakersfield, California.
Mr. McCarthy’s district 23 in California is over 35 percent Hispanic and straddles the heartland of Southern California’s agricultural centers of Tulare and Kern counties. The district had been firmly Democratic since 2002, but switched to a strongly Republican district after redistricting, with McCarthy winning in 2014 by 74 percent to 25 percent against the Democrat, Raul Garcia.
Still, in California - where Republicans are essentially a floundering party because of the growth of Latinos and Democrats since Pete Wilson’s anti-immigrant campaigns of the 1990s - McCarthy is keenly aware of the potential landmines that come with Latino voters and the immigration issue. In the past, Mr. McCarthy has argued that legalization for immigrants was a pragmatic solution to the problem, a stance that makes sense to his agriculture district and to the large number Latino constituents.
If Mr. McCarthy rises to Speaker and Mr. Rubio manages to ride the conservative wave to the White House, perhaps their strong credibility with conservatives will allow them the space they need to finally make progress on our immigration problems. Of course, this is wide speculation, and can all change tomorrow, but right now the possibilities are tenuous and the stakes are high for conservatives and for Latinos.