Friday, February 7, 2014

John Boehner Shifts with the Wind on Immigration Reform

John Boehner, public domain

John Boehner said on Jay Leno a while ago, “A leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk.” It was part of his reason for supporting the Tea Baggers in their attempt to hold Obama hostage over the debt ceiling last year.  He seemed rational and drily humorous, and even phlegmatic when talking to Jay Leno. There was no sign of frustrated passion. And he quite openly admitted that without a doubt the fault for the government shutdown lay with Republicans. 

He said he told them Obama wouldn’t back down but they didn’t listen. He saw they were going in one direction and he was heading the opposite.  That’s when he said the bit about a leader. But the reality is, he didn’t lead them, they led him. 

And it’s happening again. For a while it seemed as if the less right wing Republicans were taking their power back, as talk surfaced of immigration reform actually going somewhere. But the Tea Party isn’t giving up without a fight. Their latest stunt is to back away from immigration reform. Now Boehner is quoted in the New York Times as saying “The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be.” And the members who do trust that reform will be legally implemented, are they “The American people” too?

Boehner is quoted on Politico as saying “The president seems to change the health care law on a whim, whenever he likes. Now he’s running around the country, telling everyone that he’s going to keep acting on his own. He’s talking about his phone and his pen and he’s feeding more distrust about whether he’s committed to the rule of law. There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce the law.”

Firstly, the President had to adapt the health care law because the roll-out was so problematic. He wasn’t disregarding the law, he was taking responsibility and making sure that Americans didn’t suffer because of the roll-out problems. 

The reference to “his phone and his pen” was about the State of the Union address when President Obama said that he would use executive action where he could in the interests of protecting the middle classes from the GOP’s refusal to entertain wage increases.

The President was referring to an executive action that would require all companies contracted by the government to increase wages from $7.25 to $10.10 when the contracts come up for renewal. New companies being contracted would have to pay the same increased wages. The point was to set an example and show American companies that when they value their employees and treat them well, they work better, they’re more loyal and all sorts of benefits accrue to the company as a result. Then there’s the extra tax they pay which everybody understand is good for the government, and the extra money they have, which they spend on other businesses’ products or services. It’s a win-win. 

However, at no point did President Obama say he was going to break any laws. In fact, he said that this would only apply to new contracts. Old contracts would have to be honoured. You can’t get more trustworthy than that.

But Mr. Boehner picked a couple of sentences, took them out of context and blew them up into something sinister.  Does he really believe what he said about the President? Probably not.  But the Tea Party has their hands around his throat again. If he supports immigration reform they’ll get rid of him. Or that’s what they say. So Boehner trotted out that he doesn’t think he’ll be able to pass an immigration reform bill. Because he doesn’t want to be that man taking a walk, does he? 

For that, 11 million undocumented immigrants, a big proportion of who contribute meaningfully to the economy, must suffer. And a year spent trying to forge a bill that has the support of many businesses and many of those “American people” Boehner referred to, will have been wasted. 

President Obama isn't the one who's untrustworthy. For a list of the executive orders signed by him so far, see The Whitehouse site.