Tea Party Express Co-Founder Backs Immigration Overhaul Efforts

Democrats and pro-immigration overhaul advocates may use Russo’s words as proof that the tides are changing on the issue and it’s only a matter of time before Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is forced to throw his weight behind a legislative fix.

It could even be fodder for someone like Thomas Donahue, the president of the influential and right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who tried to drive the point home at an event on Monday by proclaiming that the GOP “shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016? if Republicans can’t do anything affirmative on immigration this year.

Boehner spoke at a luncheon on Monday sponsored by several San Antonio business groups, where he reiterated his belief that most of his colleagues support an immigration overhaul but lack trust in President Barack Obama’s willingness to enforce the law.

At the same time, Russo’s statement could taint the ideological purity of the Tea Party Express, which has already struggled to maintain a hardline reputation and wield influence in electoral politics. Russo has been criticized for his deep ties to the Republican Party establishment while many tea party stalwarts feel defined by their status on the fringe of the mainstream.

It could also raise questions about the criteria for political endorsements, or prompt Tea Party Express-endorsed candidates to distance themselves from the group. Russo’s organization is currently throwing support behind 18 GOP candidates for the House and Senate in 2014, and many of them are staunch opponents to any immigration overhaul effort in either chamber this year.

Tea Party Express-backed incumbent Jeff Sessions of Alabama is one of the loudest anti-amnesty voices in the Senate. Chris McDaniel, another endorsee who wants to unseat Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in the upcoming GOP primary, has taken a pledge with the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform to oppose any legislation that would provide work authorization for undocumented immigrants or increase the number of legal immigrants and guest workers in the United States.

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