The same week Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy is trying to unify his fractious caucus on his debt ceiling and spending cuts bill, Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee introduced an immigration bill that competes with a hard-line Judiciary Committee bill that advanced last week. One Republican at the center of the debate is so opposed to that Judiciary Committee bill that he’s threatening to withhold his vote on McCarthy’s debt ceiling funding cuts effort. McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes and the count is already looking very tight, so the threat is not an empty one. This week will determine if McCarthy can become actual speaker by unifying his party—at least well enough to pass a vote.
The rebel currently throwing a wrench in McCarthy’s plans is Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, who says the Judiciary bill “has a long way to go before it hits primetime.” Gonzales sits on the Homeland Security Committee, with its rival legislation. "This crisis doesn’t end with 218 votes in the House. This crisis ends when President Biden signs a bill into law that strengthens border security and protects legal immigration."
Gonzales has a leg to stand on. He already torpedoed one early anti-immigration push, calling it “not Christian” and “very anti-American.” He found enough support among the so-called moderates in the House to back him up to stop that first push, engineered primarily by Freedom Caucus guy and fellow Texan Rep. Chip Roy. It wasn’t just engineered by Roy: He made fast-tracking it one of the conditions of his support for McCarthy’s speaker bid.
Roy is livid at Gonzales for thwarting him. "A handful of people want to undermine our ability to actually get transformative change," Roy said on conservative radio host Glenn Beck's show. "I’m not going to name names yet. But I promise you, we’re either going to pass a good bill or we’re going to have a vote, and then you’ll know, because there will be a voting record. We’re not going to do anything in between."
He didn’t have to name names. Everyone knows it's Gonzales, and everyone also knows that Gonzales’ threats aren’t empty; he’s already tanked Roy’s dream of shutting down the asylum process, even for very young children. The Judiciary Committee bill doesn’t have all of Roy’s anti-asylum provisions, but it does aggressively reduce the number of asylum grants available. It would also put children back in cages. America’s Voice calls it “a turbocharged version of the Donald Trump and Stephen Miller agenda.”
The competing Homeland Security bill is by no means pro-immigration, either. For one thing, it resumes construction on Trump’s border wall. It would also provide more funding for Customs and Border Protection staffing and create retention bonuses for Border Patrol personnel.
While Republicans squabble over how many children to imprison, new polling shows that a whopping 82% of respondents want “both enhanced border security and policies that provide a pathway to citizenship,” and widely reject the kinds of measures both bills propose. Biden also gets dinged in polling for doing little to assist Dreamers and failing to halt all of the Trump administration’s aggressive anti-asylum measures.
The two bills head for the Rules Committee once the second bill is passed in committee. That committee is supposed to merge the two bills, and then push that new combined bill out to the floor with a deadline for a vote tentatively scheduled for the middle of May. The Freedom Caucus holds a controlling bloc of votes on Rules; Roy holds one of them. That was another little bit of extortion from Roy and his fellow maniacs: getting the seats that govern which bills go to the floor.
Neither Gonzales nor Roy is backing down from this fight. Roy is on record promising that he’s also completely down with torpedoing McCarthy’s debt limit budget cuts effort to get his way on whatever he wants, essentially.
Keep that popcorn handy. It’s going to be a messy, messy time for McCarthy and team.
America could learn a lot from how other countries elect their leaders! Political science professor Matthew Shugart joins us on this week's episode of “The Downballot” to explain how a variety of electoral systems around the world operate, as well as his thoughts on which might work well here—and actually improve our democracy. Shugart gets into the weeds on proportional voting, single transferable vote, "decoy lists," and much more. If those terms are new to you, you'll definitely want to listen!
House Republican Tony Gonzales really, really hates his party's first immigration-related bill
'It’s very anti-American': House GOP fractures on first immigration-related proposal
Texas' Chip Roy wants his anti-asylum proposal so bad that he's now making debt ceiling threats
Freedom Caucus leader 'preparing for battle' to sink McCarthy's plans