Is Obama Now Empowered to Push More of His Agenda?
House Republicans already have rejected the concept of an omnibus immigration bill, preferring to chop the measure up in individual pieces, rendering it more difficult for provisions favored by minority Democrats to sneak through. And there is legitimate animosity, particularly among lawmakers with Tea Party leanings, toward the Senate bill that opens the door for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented residents to eventually gain citizenship.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a key figure in the debate, recently told a panel audience that "I think it'd be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with him (Obama) on immigration – and I’m a proponent of immigration reform.”
“So I think what he's done over the last two and a half weeks -- he's trying to destroy the Republican Party,” Labrador said. “And I think that anything we do right now with this president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind -- which is to try to destroy the Republican Party and not to get good policies."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), burned badly in the recent negotiations with the White House, is unlikely to lend a sympathetic ear to the president’s request. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, has sponsored a bill very similar to the measure passed in the Senate in June but it’s unlikely to see the light of day even though it stands a decent chance of passing in a floor vote.
Boehner, ironically, is expected to employ the same tactic he used in the shutdown/debt ceiling debate – implement the Hastert rule, named after former House Speaker Denny Hastert, of Illinois, which holds that only those bills that carry the support of a majority of the Republican caucus will be called up for consideration. That probably spells doom for the Senate bill and any hope of illegal immigrants gaining a pathway toward citizenship.
The farm bill is equally tricky. The effort to slash the food stamp program is being steered by House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, who also feels animus toward the president as a result of the losing, bruising battle. Cantor wants to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years and require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or to enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits.
“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most,” Cantor said. “Most people don’t choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job. Most people want to go out and be productive so that they can earn a living, so that they can support a family, so that they can have hope for a more prosperous future. They want what we want. There may be some who choose to abuse this system – that’s not out of the realm of possibility – frankly it’s wrong. It’s wrong for hardworking, middle class Americans to pay for that.”
The decision ultimately will emerge from a conference committee.
Regardless, the bottom line seems to be that President Obama will have no more sway with lawmakers than he did before the recent troubles despite his obvious victory. In fact, on some issues, his success may hinder his efforts.