Politics & Government

Immigration and health care: the GOP’s doubled-edged swords?

File this under, “be careful what you wish for:”

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill have long been spoiling for a fight over immigration and health care. To the base and the lawmakers who speak for it, they are line-in-the-sand provocations that trigger political threats of government shutdowns, impeachment and general all-around obstructionism.

But even as Republicans prepare to take over the hill in January, could two issues which have served to inflame the party’s right wing base and gin up enthusiasm possibly _ in the world of realpolitik, not the say-anything world of campaign rhetoric _ backfire on them?

More circumspect heads in the party are trying to rein in the hard-chargers. They want to show a GOP that is serious about accomplishing something in the lead-up to the 2016 election. That’s a short window, and battle cry politics does not advance that goal.

On health care, Republicans have been talking repeal since 2010. They control the House and have voted more than 50 times to do so. On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner finally filed his long-threatened suit against the law. Critics dismissed it as just another political stunt.

With Republicans in control of the Senate next year, both chambers could finally vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, though President Obama would surely use his veto. But what if the Supreme Court, which will hear a case against the law, undercuts the subsidy provision, threatening the health insurance of many enrollees? Would the GOP draw the blame?

Immigration presents another dilemma. It’s been a longstanding concern to the party’s right wing. And there’s been a lot of sound and fury this week about the president’s order protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported.

Republicans are furious. To them, Obama in a single move capsized the joint pledges of cooperation that the president and GOP leaders made after the midterm election, not that anyone really put a lot of faith in both sides breaking out into a joint chorus of “Kumbaya.”

It doesn’t help the cause of more temperate Republican leaders when GOP alarmists like Rep. Michele Bachman of Minnesota says Obama’s order will lead to “illiterate” voters, or Rep. Steve King of Iowa sends signals about impeachment.

Now congressional Republicans are strategizing about ways to respond. But how far do they go in alienating a growing bloc of voters for whom fixing immigration laws is a defining issue?