House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) stunning primary defeat at the hands of an underfunded political neophyte last week is a potential game changer for the leadership’s efforts to pass an amnesty bill this year, or even in the next Congress.
Dave Brat, who defeated the House’s second ranking Republican with a $5 million campaign war chest, effectively undermined Cantor’s credibility on immigration. In his Richmond-based district, Cantor touted his credentials as a staunch opponent of amnesty for illegal aliens. In Washington, Cantor worked diligently to implement the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s agenda of amnesty for illegal aliens and massive increases in new immigration.
In an age of gerrymandered districts, almost every House Republican now understands that, despite carefully crafted push polls purporting to show support for amnesty among the party’s political base, amnesty – no matter what euphemism politicians attach to it – is a toxic issue with voters.
Despite the fact that Cantor is likely to be replaced as majority leader by another pro-amnesty congressman, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, passing an amnesty bill in this session will be a very hard sell to the GOP caucus. Here is the political equation the House leadership faces for the rest of the year:
On one side of the political ledger:
- Republican House members know that if support for amnesty can end the career of powerful majority leader, it can kill theirs too.
- Any discussion of amnesty would take place against the backdrop of absolute chaos along the border. It is now impossible to claim that our borders, or illegal immigration, are under control.
- Republicans are accusing the president’s lax (or nonexistent) enforcement policies for precipitating the current flood of illegal immigration at the border. They can no longer deny claims that enacting an amnesty would be an inducement for an even more massive wave of illegal immigration.
- Amid the current border chaos, Republicans would not have the luxury of ignoring an unconstitutional move by the president to declare a de facto amnesty, the way they did when he implemented the DACA program.
On the other side of the political ledger:
- $$$. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business interests continue to spend millions of lobbying dollars to pressure House Republicans to pass amnesty and immigration increases.
- Faux conservative front groups, funded by George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg, continue to spend lavishly to convince Republicans that there is support for amnesty within their political base.
While Cantor’s defeat makes it more difficult for the Republican-led House to pass amnesty, it does not make it impossible. The pressure must continue.