Congressman Raul Labrador does not have the high-profile firebrand image of say, his fellow Republican in the Senate, Texan Ted Cruz.
But the Idaho lawmaker is no less hesitant about calling it as he sees it, even when it means taking on his own party, including the leadership.
In an interview with Roll Call, a political publication, Labrador said that the Republican Party is adrift on many issues – chief among them, he noted, immigration.
And he blamed House Republican Speaker, Ohio's John Boehner, who has suggested that he will bring immigration reform for a vote – likely through separate bills dealing with different aspects – some time this year.
Under Boehner’s direction, House GOP leaders recently released what they called “immigration principles” that included support for giving certain undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, as well as tightening the border.
Labrador, who in the past has objected to giving undocumented immigrants any kind of break, said it would be a mistake to tackle immigration this year.
“I think it should cost him his speakership,” said Labrador, referring to Boehner.
Echoing a growing chorus of Republicans who’ve discussed the odds of immigration reform moving in Congress this year, Labrador said President Obama could not be trusted to abide by any part of a law that required stepping up enforcement.
“The problem that we have right now is that Republicans and the American public don’t trust this president to actually enforce the law,” he said, according to Roll Call. “It’s the lack of trust that is killing us right now.”
Last June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that included tightening border security, interior enforcement, making mandatory a system that employers can use to verify a worker’s eligibility, expanding foreign worker visas, and providing a path to legal status for certain undocumented immigrants.
Many of the most conservative members of the House, however, refused to sanction any measure that gives undocumented immigrants a chance to get legal status. Many of them see this as “amnesty.”
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon raised the possibility recently that perhaps it would be wise to deal with immigration after GOP primaries.
“That’s such an evil way of doing legislation,” Labrador said.
“To actually openly admit that what you’re going to do is pull the wool over people’s eyes,” he said, “I think that’s offensive. And that’s not what I’m for. That’s not why I came here to Washington, D.C. And it saddens me that my own party thinks that it’s OK to do that.”
He didn’t discount immigration for good. He said 2015 might be a better year for it.
Labrador has been nudging his party to get back to conservative stances. He sees Boehner as a leader who has helped the move away from its conservative base.
“There is a hunger in the conference for bold, visionary leaders, and this is not just conservatives — you talk to more middle-of-the-road members of the conference, they’re kind of frustrated with the direction of this leadership, and they’re looking for ways to change that,” he said, according to Roll Call.
“I think you’re going to see some changes here in the House over the next year,” he said. “I think that this is an opportunity for whoever wants to run for leadership to show that they have a clear vision for America.”
While the congressman would not say that he was offering himself as a better potential speaker, he did not rule out entertaining the idea, the publication said.