A large-animal veterinarian who is a freshman lawmaker, Congressman Yoho has taken on a Leviathan in the immigration issue. But he’s not one to cower.
In the 2012 primary for his reconfigured district in north Florida, he stunningly defeated a 12-term Republican incumbent in a grassroots campaign. His campaign was run by a young manager who had never organized a congressional race. Yoho easily won the general election in this very Republican territory around Gainesville that’s made up of horse country, swamps, and Gators fans.
Yoho, who ran against the “career politicians” in Washington, has no concerns about offending his colleagues. He told the National Journal after his election that a 1,200-pound stallion and a growling Rottweiler are far more intimidating. “I think I can handle Congress,” he said.
The Floridian (actually, a Minnesotan by birth) is a textbook pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of guy.
He and his wife, Carolyn, married at age 19 (they met in the fourth grade) and worked their way through college – she as a court reporter and he packing vegetables at night, according to the congressman’s official profile on his website. They were once on food stamps, which he called a “humiliating” experience.
Later, after their three children were born, the couple turned real estate investments into family projects.
On Capitol Hill, the freshman belongs to what’s known as the “hell no” caucus – for its rebellion against GOP leadership. A tea party favorite, he is one of the most vocal proponents of impeaching the president for “not enforcing the laws.”
The child-migration crisis over the summer caused him to cosponsor three bills to strengthen border security. In August, he introduced a bill that would allow border states to take operational control of their own borders.
Before Thanksgiving, he approached the Republican leadership in the House with a request to consider his bill declaring the president’s executive action that shields millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation to be “null and void.” Mr. Obama may be able to exercise prosecutorial discretion over individuals, but not over whole groups of people, Yoho argues.
Ironically, Yoho had voted against John Boehner for speaker in 2013, but that didn’t matter in this case. The leadership saw in Yoho’s bill a way to register Republican opposition to the president’s move and allow the conservative flank to formally voice its disapproval. Its beauty was that it was stand-alone legislation, not attached to the budget – and so it didn’t threaten a government shutdown, which the leadership wants to avoid.
There’s only one problem for Yoho and those who would like to see this bill become law. It never will. It barely passed the House on a largely party-line vote of 219 to 197 and 3 “present” votes (it takes 218 votes to pass a bill in the House).
When asked this week whether he would take up the bill in the Senate, majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, had a one-word answer: “No.”
But Yoho’s still got fight in him. He told CQ Roll Call that he’s not going to vote for the speaker’s plan to fund the federal government – it runs out of money on Dec. 11 – unless it strips funds to implement the president’s order.
It looks now, however, like the speaker will do an end run around the GOP hardliners. He said Thursday that he doesn’t plan to change the budget bill much and expects bipartisan support for it.