McCarthy's Fund-the-Wall Bill: Is it Real, a Chimera, or a Sell-Out in the Making?

By Dan Cadman on October 17, 2018

In a Backgrounder analyzing a recently introduced House bill, "A Brief Overview of H.R. 6657, the 'Fund and Complete the Border Wall Act'", I noted that even as that bill was being considered, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was announcing, with great fanfare, a revitalized effort to push through "a new get-tough immigration bill that would build the rest of President Trump's border wall, punish sanctuary cities and stiffen penalties on repeat-illegal immigrants."

McCarthy made his announcement on October 12, and that very same day, a placeholder for this "get tough" bill appeared on the website. That was a little unusual given that the text was not even available at the time the placeholder for the bill was placed on the site, which acts as a repository for legislation introduced into both chambers of Congress.

I have been checking the site for the missing text daily, in anticipation of doing an analysis of the exact language contained in the bill at the earliest opportunity. I'll be honest that the bill I've been expecting is a rehash of many of the same provisos and verbiage as bills in the House and Senate I've reviewed in the past, such as the "Border Security for America Act" and the "Building America's Trust Act", only with a lot of robust physical southern barrier funding tossed in for good measure.

But I'm not so sure about that theory any more. With each passing day, I have become more convinced that McCarthy's announcement was as much about politics as about substance — and that the text remains unavailable because there is, in fact, no bill yet because it's still being brokered among and between key House members, Senate leadership, and the White House to figure out what might pass muster.

I checked the site again today. It still says, "text has not been received". Nor can the bill be found on the website, although there's a similar placeholder. Neither site even has a summary of the bill.

What did catch my eye today, though, was this article in The Hill: "Conservatives fear Trump will cut immigration deal", which says in part:

Conservatives are growing worried that President Trump and GOP leaders will strike a slimmed-down immigration deal during the lame-duck session if Democrats win back the House in November.

Republicans fear that Trump, who relishes in the role of dealmaker, will be eager to provide protections for hundreds of thousands so-called Dreamers in exchange for a $25 billion border wall, and that he might do so without getting any other concessions from Democrats if he thinks it's his last chance to secure funding for the wall.

I'm not close enough to the insider politics of Washington to know how likely this scenario is, but in some ways it's consistent with what I see playing out in small ways, and it's clear enough to me that there are many Republicans, McCarthy and House Speaker Paul Ryan among them, who are half-hearted in their desire for any meaningful, enforcement-oriented reforms to our immigration system.

Mostly what this brand of Republican lawmaker seems to want is to push the infamous "reset" button, i.e. amnesty in some form, hopefully not enough to upset "the base", but enough to see the many self-evident failures of our present system of immigration enforcement and control disappear from the headlines for a while as illegal aliens are pushed into the line for legalization.

This way, they can declare "mission accomplished" and leave the mess for somebody else to figure out, either because they have comfortably moved into retirement (for those not seeking reelection) or because the Democrats have taken the House. That would put them conveniently into the position of loyal opposition, where they don't actually have to take an inconvenient position on anything or accept the blame for continued lapses in border security — even though they would have been in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House for plenty enough time to have achieved great things, if they had exhibited the wherewithal and fortitude to do so.

I truly hope that this cynical, almost dystopian view of what could play out in the immigration context is completely off base. Because if it proves to be accurate, there will be a conservative backlash of epic proportion in the 2020 presidential election cycle.