How The Chamber Of Commerce Is Sabotaging Its Own Support For Immigration Reform

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"How The Chamber Of Commerce Is Sabotaging Its Own Support For Immigration Reform"

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue

After House Republicans met last week to discuss how they would avoid taking up the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue expressed hope that overwhelming public support for the comprehensive plan would eventually push them to make a deal. But despite the Chamber’s support for this bill, its political spending over the past two Congressional elections helped elect many of the Representatives most vocally opposing the effort.

The Chamber supports comprehensive immigration reform because it is good for the economy and American competitiveness. The group, which represents many businesses, created an immigration section on its website, encouraging support for comprehensive reform, and endorsed S. 744, the “Gang of Eight” bill passed by a bipartisan super-majority in the Senate.

But the biggest obstacle for the bill may be the Republican majority the Chamber helped elect. In 2010, the Chamber invested more than $33 million into political spending — the vast majority of it aimed at defeating Congressional Democrats and electing Congressional Republicans. In large part due to their efforts, Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives — a majority retained with the Chamber’s help in the 2012 elections. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has vowed not to consider the bipartisan Senate bill and ruled out passing any reform that does not have majority support within the House Republican caucus.

Ninteen of the House Republicans who received contributions from the Chamber’s political action committee in the 2010 and 2012 are among the most vocal critics of the Senate bill and/or comprehensive reform. They include:

1. Rep. John Barrow (D-GA). Calling the Senate bill a “pig in a poke,” Barrow opposes it and its “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. He received $6,500 from the Chamber’s PAC and benefited from more than $102,000 in Chamber independent expenditures on his behalf.
2. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL). Buchanan said this month, “Earlier this week, the Senate passed a flawed immigration overhaul that rewards illegal immigrants with amnesty, fails to effectively secure the border and puts American workers at a competitive disadvantage. I do not support this approach.” He received $16,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
3. Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) Bucshon posted on his Facebook page last month, “We must secure the border first. The Senate fails to do this in their immigration bill that passed today. I’m pleased the House will take a different approach and not take up the Senate version.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
4. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). Cole has said that the Senate bill would not pass the Senate and that Boehner shouldn’t even bring it up for a vote, given its lack of GOP support. He received $10,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
5. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY). Collins said last month that the Senate bill, with its path to citizenship, “goes too far.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC and benefited from more than $310,000 in Chamber independent expenditures on his behalf and against his opponent.
6. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR). In a Wall Street Journal op/ed, “It’s the House Bill or Nothing on Immigration,” Cotton blasted the Senate bill’s “irreparably flawed structure, which is best described as: legalization first, enforcement later . . . maybe.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
7. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Davis called the Senate bill a “disaster” last week, warning of the potential costs of allowing these new citizens to access government programs. He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC and benefited from $500,000 in Chamber independent expenditures against his opponent.
8. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). As chairman of House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte’s opposition to comprehensive reform is a particular problem. He has promised several small reforms, rather than allowing his committee to consider the Senate bill. He received $5,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
9. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Gosar has made his opposition to any bill with a path to citizenship clear, writing, “I strongly believe we need to immediately secure our border and oppose amnesty for anyone who blatantly violates our law.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
10. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). Johnson wrote on his Facebook page, last month, “The Senate passed a bill today that I do NOT support. Border security must come first, and no amnesty.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
11. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). Though Labrador was initially part of the bipartisan House “Group of Eight” seeking a Senate-like agreement, he bolted from the talks last month. Since, he has dismissed Senate’s approach, saying, “The people that came here illegally knowingly — I don’t think they should have a path to citizenship.” He received $2,500 from the Chamber’s PAC.
12. Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA). Latham said earlier this month that he opposes the Senate bill: “I support the House position, that is to move individual bills addressing immigration: talking about border security, about making a verification system work and in place before any kind of change in status for people who have come into the country undocumented… And that’s really the way we’re going to proceed.” He received $5,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
13. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA). McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has criticized the Senate bill. He is a strong opponent of any “amnesty” for people in the United States illegally, but received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
14. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA). Meehan attacked the Senate bill last week, claiming it had been passed it a secretive way and likening it to Obamacare. “Frankly, we don’t even know what’s in it,” he explained, “It’s not a good way to make a law.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
15. Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS). In a series of tweets last month, Nunnelee said that any reform must focus on enforcement and security. He added, “I oppose the Senate immigration reform bill because it fails to meet these criteria.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
16. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA). Perry wrote last week, “I wouldn’t have voted for the Senate bill, which needed stronger and more targeted border enforcement measures and also contained special giveaways designed to garner votes.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
17. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY). Reed opposed the Senate bill earlier this month, warning, “this is amnesty.” He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
18. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI). Ribble says on his website that he is not in favor of a path to citizenship, calling it “amnesty.” He received $3,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.
19. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Sensenbrenner also has rejected the Senate approach and opposes a path to citizenship. He received $1,000 from the Chamber’s PAC.

Thirteen Senators who received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s support in 2010 or 2012 — all Republicans — voted against comprehensive immigration reform.

This isn’t the first time the group has spent against its own pronounced interests. In the 2012 elections, the Chamber invested millions to support candidates who had opposed the 2011 Budget Control Act — after vowing to defeat anyone who voted against it.

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