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The GOP is blowing a big opportunity to do something about immigration reform

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Congress,Immigration,2014 Elections,Border Security,Law,Louie Gohmert,Michele Bachmann,Becket Adams

“Are we going to go into recess?” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., asked as she stepped into a crowded U.S. Capitol elevator with Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. “We don’t know what will happen.”

The congresswoman’s remarks, which were directed at the Washington Examiner and likely said without much thought, perfectly capture the mood of House Republicans as they face their latest political predicament.

The GOP has tirelessly hammered away at President Obama for inaction on issues both foreign and domestic. They complain that he golfs too much and parties too much and they accuse him of being entirely disinterested in the duties of his office. And yes, the president does appear to enjoy the finer things in life, including soirées with celebrities and music events at the White House.

But the Republican-controlled House is poised to take a five-week recess even as the growing crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border remains unresolved. Considering the fact that the GOP has for the last three months criticized the White House for its underwhelming response to this specific issue, the House’s likely plans to skip town for 35 days, leaving the same humanitarian emergency to fester and grow, could not look sillier.

Americans are extraordinarily unhappy with the president’s handling of the current immigration crisis, which has seen thousands of unaccompanied minors flooding the southern border, and at least one poll shows that 42 percent of likely voters believe the GOP is better suited to solve the problem.

But what good does it do Republicans to complain incessantly about Obama’s dithering on illegal immigration if they can’t even pretend to be the more attractive alternative?

Yes, there’s little that the House can do without cooperation from the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, but there exists in all of this an opportunity for House Republicans to make a point: What if Congress’ lower chamber, under Republican leadership, put off its scheduled recess and remained in the nation’s capital, insisting that the Senate and the White House work with it to solve the border crisis?

This form of protest, which was first suggested by Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, would not only signal to the American public that House leadership gives “a damn” about the crisis, but it also would likely force the White House and the Senate to act on immigration reform (as failure to do so would invite terrible optics ahead of the November midterm elections). Obviously, getting the Obama administration to act on illegal immigration is more important than mere political posturing, the point of the protest being that it may produce a solution to the crisis.

True, it’s a bit “inside the beltway” to talk about so-called “optics” and midterms, but sticking around the city likely won’t hurt the House Republicans. So why not at least consider the idea? It seems like it could be an easy win, one that could hand a much-needed confidence boost to Republican leaders who have likely forgotten what victory feels like.

The obvious problem, however, is that congressional Republicans are not very good with these sort of political maneuvers.

Indeed, instead of positioning themselves as the party that is deadly serious about the border crisis, Republicans were forced Thursday to pull their poorly constructed immigration bill after it became clear that House leadership had failed to secure the necessary votes to move the measure to the upper chamber. True, the Senate and the White House had no intention of passing said measure, but the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, whipped House Republicans against their own bill, and the subsequent confusion and embarrassing decision to pull it at the last second and reschedule new votes, likely does little to instill confidence in voters.

Remember, the November midterm elections are just a few months away, and these public displays of confusions do nothing to position the GOP for victory.

So if the Republican-controlled House can’t even pass an immigration bill, can it at least protest the recess and stay in the capital until a solution has been found?

Not likely.

Rather than staying in Washington until the problem is solved, pounding away at the White House for its inaction on the border, House Republicans are practically champing at the bit to get out of town, happy to toss out some token blame at Democrats before they go.

“The one thing we do know is that [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.] hasn’t taken up any of these bills that we’ve sent, and we’re now trying to figure out what our immigration bill is,” Bachmann said, shifting closer to Gohmert from her spot in the U.S. Capitol elevator.

The elevator reached its destination.

Gohmert, who has warned in several interviews that the U.S. is being invaded by armies of violent Hispanic gangs carrying with them exotic diseases, shot out of the elevator as soon as it opened and disappeared down a nearby escalator, leaving Bachmann to answer the Examiner’s questions about whether House Republicans had considered putting off its scheduled recess.

“This is a crisis, we believe it is a crisis, it has to be addressed. And we need to come back here, as soon as Harry Reid comes back, we need to come back here to deal with it,” Bachmann said, exiting the elevator and heading after Gohmert at an extraordinarily brisk pace.

“So, my opinion is we can only do so much,” she added before disappearing from sight on one of the Capitol building’s underground subway cars.

Two notable members of the House’s Tea Party caucus gone from sight, the Examiner then turned to House leadership — that is, members of the so-called “GOP establishment” — for their thoughts on the impending August recess and the border crisis.

A spokesperson for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who will soon replace outgoing Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Separately, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it's up to Senate Democrats to find a solution to the border crisis.

“I don’t have any update on the schedule,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Wednesday. “Obviously, assuming the House passes a border bill [soon], it will be up to the Senate to take the next step.”

Translation: See you in September.

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