By all indications, the emerging immigration reform bill may get as many as 70 votes in the Senate this week, as Chuck Schumer predicted on CNN yesterday. And so attention is turning to the question of whether comprehensive reform has a prayer of passing the House. National Journal has a piece this morning capturing the emerging sense among many observers that House Republicans may kill reform on behalf of a GOP base that can’t accept it.
But make no mistake: If the base does succeed in killing immigration reform, it’s only because House GOP leaders allowed it to.
To be sure, the possibility that House Republicans may catch an earful from constituents during the coming August recess — dimming hopes for reform — is very real. As National Journal puts it: “The last time the Senate passed a major immigration bill in 2006, House Republicans used the August recess to kill it by staging a series of hearings around the country that did nothing but rile up conservatives against it.”
That sounds scary. And look, it’s all but certain that in the end, a majority of House Republicans won’t support anything that includes a path to citizenship, which will cast real doubt on reform’s prospects. But what folks aren’t quite reckoning with yet is the amount of intense pressure John Boehner and other House GOP leaders are going to feel to let comprehensive reform come to a vote, even if it must pass the House with mostly Dems.
Boehner has vowed this won’t happen. But if reform passes the Senate with 70 votes, leading GOP Senators such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and top members of the consultant/strategist establishment, such as Karl Rove, will fan across the airwaves and pummel away at the House GOP leadership to allow it to come to a vote, arguing that failure to do so will constitute demographic suicide. The Wall Street Journal editorial page and other GOP-aligned opinion leaders such as Sean Hannity will likely join the chorus.
We already know that the GOP base is going to kick up a lot of noise against reform. The only question is whether the GOP leadership is willing to buck the base to let reform pass for the long term good of the party. If the Senate passes reform by a wide margin, Boehner will be in the position of having to decide whether to allow the House GOP to take the blame for killing a historic opportunity to reform our broken immigration system.
To be clear, Boehner very well may end up deciding not to let comprehensive reform come to a vote if it must pass with mostly Dems; after all, many Republicans argue that reform won’t actually help the GOP. But the point is, this is not a certain outcome by any means. Don’t buy Boehner’s public insistence that he won’t allow anything to get a vote if it doesn’t have the support of a majority of House Republicans; there’s no reason to believe this has actually been decided; and you should certainly not rule out the possibility that in the end, Boehner may allow it to slip through. Will that imperil his Speakership? Not necessarily. If enough mainstream House conservatives privately want reform to pass, even if they’re not prepared to vote for it, he’d be okay. To be clear, we don’t know right now whether enough Republicans will reach this conclusion in the end. But they very well might.
As for suggestions that the expected noise from the GOP base ensures that reform will die in the House, remember: if the base does kill reform, it will only be because Boehner let it happen.
* U.S. CHASING EDWARD SNOWDEN ACROSS THE GLOBE: The latest: The man wanted for leaking highly classified information about the NSA programs is not being detained by Russian officials, who claim they have no legal authority to do so, and he’s reportedly seeking asylum in Equador. And:
News services said Snowden was expected to board an Aeroflot flight to Havana, scheduled to depart Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport at 6:05 a.m. Eastern time Monday. But reporters on board the flight said on Twitter that he had not been spotted among the passengers.
The decision to prosecute the person most responsible for bringing details about the NSA programs to light puts Obama in a terrible political position at a time when his administration is already under fire for excessive secrecy shrouding the programs and he personally is vowing to help bring more transparency to them.
* OBAMA ADMINISTRATION GEARS UP FOR OBAMACARE IMPLEMENTATION: The White House this morning is rolling out a new Web site, HealthCare.gov, which is designed to help health insurance consumers navigate the new landscape when the new marketplace of exchanges starts on October 1st. The new push is a reminder of just how much is riding on successful implementation, both politically and in terms of policy.
Whatever happens, you can expect even routine glitches to be inflated into evidence of a full scale disaster by folks who know full well that implementing complex and far reaching policy reforms has historically been difficult and have created mass public confusion before ultimately gaining widespread acceptance.
* COULD SCOTUS PUNT ON GAY MARRIAGE CASES? With the Supreme Court set to rule as early as today on the two big cases involving gay marriage – both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are at issue — Chris Geidner has a good explainer on how the Court could avoid taking on the Constitutional issues at play by issuing a narrow ruling based on whether plaintiffs have “standing.” Gay rights advocates are hoping for broad rulings — particularly on Prop 8 — because a finding that Prop 8 violates the equal protection clause could give them a weapon to knock down other state laws prohibiting gay marraige around the country.
* MORE MOMENTUM FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who voted against immigration reform in 2007 and is one of several red state Dems whose coming vote is uncertain, is now indicating that she is likely to support it this time around, and Dem aides are predicting they may not lose a single Democrat. It’s a sign the politics of immigration are shifting not just for moderate Republicans, but are becoming safer for moderate Democrats as well — and raises the odds that it can pass the Senate with a sizable majority, which could help its overall odds of getting through the House.
* RIGHT WING EXTREMISM, NOT DEMOCRATS, DOOMED FARM BILL: E.J. Dionne bring important context to the crash of the farm bill in the House last week: The food stamp program was itself created by bipartisan consensus, and the drive to slash it so dramatically is a reminder of the extremism of today’s Republicans, as is the onerous nature of the work requirement they’d allow states to impose on it. This only underscores the absurdity of GOP efforts to blame Democrats for the bill’s demise; Republicans wrongly relied on Dems to accept this gutting of their priorities to bail them out of a predicament created by the right.
Moral of the story: Republicans need Democrats to pass big ticket items out of the House, and if they push immigration reform too far to the right, the same thing could happen again.
* GLENN GREENWALD VERSUS DAVID GREGORY: Yesterday on Meet the Press, Greenwald and Gregory got into a tussle when the latter asked Greenwald whether he had “aided and abetted” Snowden and should be charged with a crime. My Post colleague Erik Wemple has everything you need to know about the full exchange, and why it shows a limited understanding on Gregory’s part about the basic legal issues at play.
* AND GABRIEL GOMEZ IS (OUTWARDLY) CONFIDENT UNTIL THE END: With Massachusetts set to choose a Senator tomorrow, Taegan Goddard catches a telling quote from the GOP candidate that seems to hint at his true expectations:
“I’m confident I’m going to win. But as a famous general once said in World War II, I shall return.”
And here’s another one: “I ran a clean race. I can look myself in the mirror and know that I ran an honorable race and I’m proud of that.”
The Real Clear Politics polling average currently puts Ed Markey up by 11.8 points.