Tom Zirpoli: Failure of leadership in House

U.S. Rep. John Boehner, of Ohio, likes being Speaker of the House more than actually doing the work of the Speaker of the House. In fact, he has been the Speaker with the least to show for his years of service, leading a House of Representatives that holds the record for doing so little.

A good immigration reform bill has already passed the Senate and now sits in the House, where so many other good bills go to die. Interestingly, there are enough Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House to pass the bill. But conservatives in the House, like U.S. Rep. Steve King, of Iowa, who once referred to the children of immigrants as "drug mules," warned Boehner that if he brings the immigration reform bill up for a vote he risks his Speaker position. So Boehner backed off.

The immigration reform bill has the support of the Chamber of Commerce and numerous other business and farm groups. They see immigration reform as a boost to their businesses and to the U.S. economy. But conservatives in the House can't see beyond their racial stereotypes of "drug mules," so they continue to keep millions of families, and their children, living in the shadows.

Republicans wonder why only one out of five Hispanics identifies with the GOP. Boehner understands the relationship between Hispanic distrust of Republicans and the GOP's resistance to immigration reform. But he can't lead his party away from the tired stereotypes of his most conservative members.

Boehner recently tried to redirect the blame for his own leadership failure to President Barack Obama who, according to Boehner, could not be trusted to enforce immigration laws. But, once again, the data show a different picture from the one Boehner and other Republicans try to paint regarding the Obama administration and immigration laws.

As pointed out by Gail Collins, writing for The New York Times, no president has a better record of enforcing immigration laws than Obama. No president has deported more illegal immigrants than Obama. No president has hired more border patrol agents - 21,391 and counting - than Obama. According to Collins, "The government now spends more on enforcing immigration laws than it spends on the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives combined." As a result, writes Collins, the number of people trying to illegally cross the Mexican border has plummeted under the Obama administration.

Boehner, however, needs to at least try to deflect the blame for the GOP's do-nothing attitude on immigration reform. But Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker, writing for The New York Times, outlined the behind-the-scenes forces that are really responsible for the GOP's fear of immigration reform.

The list includes the usual conservative groups, such as the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots group. These groups warned conservatives in the House against the passage of immigration reform. They have the power to run more conservative candidates against House members in Republican primaries. Thus, conservative House members do what they are told by these outside groups.

We know immigration reform is needed, said one conservative House member, but we need leadership from the president. In reality, however, they need leadership from their Speaker. The president and the Senate have already provided leadership on immigration reform. The Senate passed a bill that now sits on the Speaker's desk. The president says that he will sign it. It is the Speaker of the House and his conservative membership that has kept the Senate bill from coming to a vote in the House and becoming law.

All Boehner needs to do is bring the Senate bill to a vote. But he is more concerned with preserving his position as Speaker of the House than doing what he actually wants to do and what he knows is best for our nation.

The failure of leadership lives in the Speaker's House, not the White House.