House GOP leaders did NOT stand during Obama's immigration paragraph -- What does that tell us about where they think their constituencies stand?

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That's all Pres. Obama devoted to immigra tion in his State of the Union address earlier tonight. Mercifully! (See it below.)
And his paragraph didn't have any specifics because he didn't want to risk offending the only audience that really mattered for it -- the Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In just a few hours, the House Republicans will be scraping the snow off their windshields and driving over to the Chesapeake Bay for a three-day retreat. Later today, the House Republican leadership will devote a session to trying to sell the Members on some principles that have been reported as including mass legalization and work permits for illegal alien s.
Pres. Obama didn't want to do anything that would undermine Speaker Boehner and his leadership team's pro-amnesty efforts this week.


The person most interesting during any State of the Union is the Speaker of the House of the other party. How will he or she react to each line that is causing Members of Congress to jump up in ovations?
Speaker Boehner found himself in a tough position after the President's first immigration sentence that ended with a call to "fix our broken immigration system."
Vice President Biden quickly moved to his feet as did all Democrats in a pretty resounding ovation.

Mr. Boehner knew the cameras were on him.
His corporate donors want him to give Mr. Obama what he wants. All indications are that Mr. Boehner wants that, too. But Mr. Boehne r also had earlier this morning seen a strong negative reaction from his Republican Members to the news reports about a possible GOP legalization plan. Does the Speaker rehearse his reactions ahead of time? What would he do on this one?
I was relieved that Mr. Boehner didn't seem to have the slightest inclination to stand the way leaders of the "other party" sometimes feel they have to when baseball, mom and apple pie are being lauded. Instead, Mr. Boehner gave a non-commital facial expression and slowly applauded while remaining seated.

The camera swung to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
who was giving a moderate applause while looking very serious. At the edge of the camera shot was the No. 3 House Republican Kevin McCarthy also being careful not to look too enthusiastic, despite recently saying that he looked forward to moving legislation that gives work permits and legalization to most illegal aliens.
I'm not bothered by a little polite applause because there is a strong pressure for people to show the TV audience that they aren't just opposed to everything the other party puts out. Plus, I favor "immigration reform," too -- the reform that Barbara Jordan's bi-partisan Commission on Immigration Reform urged.
It looked like maybe a half-dozen Republicans were confident enough of their constituents to stand with the Democrats in the ovation. But all Republicans were sitting with their hands in their laps or just politely clapping.
At the end of the President's immigration paragraph, there was more heavy applause. The camera caught Mr. Cantor not joining at first and then offering a pretty slow clap.
I'm not going to read too much into what the various body language tells us about where these GOP leaders stand but I think it tells us worlds about where they think their constituency stands.
After all those Republicans were hammered all day with our phone calls, they have a taste of just how bad the reaction could be if their party were responsible for passing some kind of amnesty this year.

Despite the fact that the news media have been making it seem like immigration is about 60% of Mr. Obama's agenda for this year, he gave it only a perfunctory paragraph. Here it is:
"Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement -- and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillio n in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams -- to study, invent, and contribute to our culture -- they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it done. It's time."
Of course, we know the absolutely horrible things Mr. Obama would do under the term "immigration reform."
But it seems a good sign that he thought it would be harmful to his cause to tell Americans anything specific that he wants on immigration.


Republicans picked one of the House's top party leaders -- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) -- to deliver the response.
Because many news media have practically declared the inevitability of House Republicans helping pass an amnesty this year, I was much more interested to hear what she would say.
Since she didn't really mention that many issues, it wasn't a good sign that she and her colleagues thought she should make such a big deal about immigration reform. Still, hers was also just a paragraph and more vague than specific:

"And yes, it's time to honor our history of legal immigration. We're working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest workin g from around the world. "

Why do I have a strong idea that Mrs. McMorris Rogers hasn't the first clue about our history of immigration or what we should honor about it?

Is she aware of our immigration history of a century ago, when mass immigration like we have today created increasingly wide income disparity, a huge underclass and was a primary tool for keeping the freed slaves and descendants of slaves in virtual servitude out of the mainstream of American jobs? How does she propose to honor that history?

I am particularly concerned by her call that we make sure that America always attracts the "hardest working from around the world." Sounds like she is committed to helping the corporate lobbies import any foreign worker who they think will work harder, longer and at lower wages and benefits and working conditions than the Americans who employers otherwise would have to recruit and train.

Is there any chance that a person giving any of these addresses could note that the point of immigraiton policy is to protect Americans.
B ut her rhetoric is vague enough that the Republicans at their Chesapeake Bay retreat Wednesday through Friday won't have to embarrass her or seem to reject her when they show no enthusiasm for the GOP leadership's definition of "imigration reform."

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