GOP Rebels Declare (a Kind of) Victory with Immigration Bill

They failed to overthrow John Boehner, but they think they won.

The first week of the 114th Congress began with a pitched, predictable battle between the Republican leadership of the House and two dozen rebellious conservatives. It will end with Republicans revealing a series of immigration amendments to the must-pass bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. That, for the time being, has satisfied the people who were at war with their own party, and pitted them against the Democrats.

"A few people stood up and said they were happy with this," said Florida Representative Ted Yoho, who offered himself this week as an alternative to Speaker John Boehner. "They're out in the conference, we know what we're going to vote on, the language is going to be out later today. That's perfect. It was exactly like we were after."

Yoho and other rebels had always cast their opposition to Boehner as a matter of principle, not personality. They wanted to open up the House and decentralize power. To them, Friday morning, it seemed like a promised series of votes on immigration amendments was an acknowledgment that the rank and file mattered.

"This is the third time the conference has met this week," said a cheerful Kentucky Representative Tom Massie, days after voting against the speaker. "They're definitely more willing to allow member input. It looks like what we're doing is more in line with what the founding fathers intended, which is that the House does what the House does without contemplating what the Senate will do. I don't think the founding fathers anticipated us working on only what the Senate would accept."

It's far from the first time leaders have won over the rebels by moving their way on a proposed bill. In previous fights over funding the Affordable Care Act or raising the debt limit, the Boehner leadership eventually gave up on bills that Democrats could pass in the Senate and gave their party bills that pleased them. But Massie and his allies had said their challenge was about opening up the process; they thought they won.

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