Tea Party defies elites on immigration issue
Elites of both parties are united in support of Marco Rubio's immigration bill. That sort of unity is remarkable in Washington, but not unheard of.
Here's the unprecedented part: The elites are going to lose.
The Tea Party has cultivated in House Republicans such a distrust of the establishment and such a disregard for party unity that even when the issue isn't a Tea Party issue — and immigration isn't, really — the GOP rank and file have little interest in doing what they're told.
How unified is the GOP elite behind Rubio's bill?
The Chamber of Congress, by far the largest lobbying organization in the country, is spending seven figures on TV spots supporting Rubio's immigration bill.
Karl Rove's American Crossroads organization is running a campaign supporting the bill. The group, funded by wealthy Republican donors, bought ad space to publish an open letter signed by top GOP executives, lobbyists, fundraisers and party leaders.
Bush cabinet official-turned-lobbyist Carlos Gutierrez launched a Super PAC last year called Republicans for Immigration Reform that is backing RubioWhat the elites have not been able to do is persuade the Tea Party members of Congress that the bill is in the best interest of the country or the Republican party. The polling shows the Democrats would be the primary beneficiaries of the "reform" and the bill even with its border surge does nothing to improve inland enforcement which this administration has abandoned because its sees the illegals as future Democrat voters.
Haley Barbour was chairman of the Republican National Committee, governor of Mississippi, and, of course, a lobbyist. Barbour is now running "Americans for a Conservative Direction," an advocacy group backing Rubio's bill. Meanwhile, the lobbying firm Barbour founded, BGR, is lobbying on immigration on behalf of tech companies.
Charlie Black, Ken Duberstein, Ed Rogers — pick a prominent Reagan or Bush I official now on K Street, and you can bet that he's lobbying for liberalized immigration laws.
Democrats also support the bill, almost without exception.
Historically, when K Street and the GOP leadership team up, they usually win. When they have Democrats on their side, they always win, however much the House Republicans may grouse.
Consider the history of the past twelve years, and you'll see elites aligning against more populist conservatives, and the House GOP eventually folding.
But the House won't pass the Senate's immigration bill. The odds are against the House, Senate, and White House ever reaching agreement. So, what's different here?
First, immigration is historically a trickier issue. The Senate, the White House, and industry all supported an immigration bill in 2006, and that was a rare case of the House standing its ground under such circumstances. Also relevant: The 2006 immigration vote was after Delay, the master at winning votes, resigned.
Here's the biggest difference, though: Republicans elected since 2010 simply do not feel they need to answer to K Street, the GOP leadership, or any party elites. Newer Republican members came to Washington without the help of business PACs, often running against K Street in primaries and general elections.
Republican leaders also can't use pork to win over the rank and file, thanks to the earmark ban.