A Predator drone operated by the U.S. Office of Air and Marine takes off for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. (John Moore/ / Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The US defense sector will miss out on billions of dollars in new sales to the federal government after a dagger was driven into hopes for sweeping immigration-reform legislation.
House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, told President Barack Obama on Monday that the lower chamber will not hold a vote this year on any measure that would substantially overhaul the country’s much-maligned immigration system.
Speaking Monday afternoon from the White House Rose Garden, Obama accused Boehner of bowing to the wishes of far-right members of his caucus. The president says he believes it when Boehner says he wants to pass a bill.
Boehner and other GOP leaders have “proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party,” Obama said. “Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a vote.”
The on-again-off-again Washington drama over the issue tilted back toward on in January, when House Republicans unveiled a white paper explaining their “standards” for a reform bill. The one-page document stated that steps to bolster border security “must come first.”
The Senate last year passed an immigration-reform bill that called for nearly $40 billion for new US-made combat hardware for that very purpose, meaning the GOP white paper raised the possibility of new, unanticipated business for defense companies.
But within days of the release of the GOP standards, Boehner and other Republicans began pouring cold water on the narrative that the lower chamber would pass even a pared-down version of the Senate bill. Five months later, Boehner pulled the plug
“It’s just politics — plain and simple,” he added.
The end of the immigration reform push this year takes off the table, for now, the prospect of tens of billions of dollars in business for US companies that build aircraft, vehicles and other hardware that could be needed to support a border-steeling immigration bill.
The Senate’s bill would have been a boon for firms like Sikorsky Aircraft, Bell Helicopter, surveillance drone makers and other companies feeling the squeeze from sequestration and declining military spending worldwide. ■