U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue said Monday that the Republican Party “should not bother to run a candidate” in the 2016 presidential election unless Congress can pass immigration reform this year. During an event on the economy and infrastructure, Donohue argued that it was necessary for the House to “do something rational” and that the Chamber of Commerce would “put a lot more” heat on Congressional members who are resistant to the idea of reform, Politico first reported.
When asked by a moderator what he deemed a “must pass bill … that’s crucial for the future of the U.S. economy,” Donohue insisted on passing immigration reform:
We’ll be absolutely crazy if we don’t take advantage of having passed an immigration bill out of the Senate. Going back and doing it again might be harder and do something rational in the House and put it together and let’s get the three or four things we really need there. And we’ve got a lot of heat on that and we’re going to put a lot more.
[…] If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016. I mean, think about that. Think about who the voters are.
Donohue’s comments prompted some audience members to say, ” Wow. Wow!” while the moderator told people to tweet the comments. He went on to say that without immigration reform, the country would lose immigrants who trained at the “best universities in the world” and instead “send the work to where people are.” He also joked that if the “bottom level of workers” left the country, Americans would have to be the ones to pick up their mother-in-laws from the nursing home.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons, also said at the event that he was optimistic that an immigration bill would happen in the lame-duck session as the “final bill.”
The voters that Donohue referred to are likely Latino voters who could impact the 2016 election since a 2013 Latino Decisions poll found that at least 63 percent of Latino voters say that they personally know someone who is an undocumented immigrant. Another Latino Decisions poll found that 63 percent of Latino voters “would view House Republicans somewhat or much less favorably if House Republicans block immigration reform.” And a report released last week by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials projected that there may be 28 million eligible Latino voters for the 2016 election. As a reference, Latino voters made up 17 percent of the 2012 vote in Florida, 37 percent in New Mexico, 18 percent in Nevada, and 14 percent in Colorado.
Donohue previously said that the Chamber would “support candidates who want to work within the legislative process to solve the nation’s problems.” But the Chamber has nonetheless continued to endorse and fund candidates who oppose the Senate-approved immigration bill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). And just last week, the Chamber launched a two-week ad buy for 10 House Republicans who the group believes could “help grow a pro-business majority in the Republican-controlled House,” according to the New York Times.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) voiced similar sentiments to Donohue, saying last week, “the deadline is that if we don’t get it done by August it doesn’t happen.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declined to set a deadline during a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event with the Texas Tribune in San Antonio Monday. He said that immigration reform should be done “sequentially” in “four, five, six … bite-sized portions” over “a week or two” or even a month, because smaller bills would encounter less opposition. Although he insisted at the event that immigration reform was “not about politics. It’s about doing the right thing for the American people,” he also has acquiesced to Tea Party demands to not act on a set of immigration principles that he released and most recently walked back from mocking House Republicans for thinking that reform is “too hard.”