Today House Republicans are set to hold a crucial private meeting to hash out the way forward on immigration reform. It is now widely assumed the House will kill it, no matter what. In a piece that purports to be bucking the conventional wisdom but actually echoes it, Politico proclaims that reform is heading for a “slow death” in the House.
So here are the questions I hope the reporting on the meeting helps answer:
1) Is there any level of border security that can get a majority of House Republicans to support a path to citizenship? What would that look like? Can a majority of House Republicans accept citizenship under any circumstances?
2) What is the appetite among House Republicans for John Boehner ultimately allowing something without a majority of House Republicans behind it — the Senate bill, or something else produced by conference negotiations that approximates it — to come to a vote, and passing with mostly Dems? Is there a sizable bloc who might privately want that to happen for the good of the party, while publicly voting against it?
We already know the answer to number one is almost certainly No. That’s why folks, understandably, continue to predict reform’s certain demise. Making things worse, Boehner has now laid down his marker: draconian border security measures must precede legalization. If he sticks to this marker, reform will die. At any rate, a majority of House Republicans almost certainly won’t support anything short of that. So the main question seems to be: can anything get a vote without the support of a majority of House Republicans?
One expert on the House who is very much worth listening to is David Wasserman, who closely tracks races and districts for the Cook Political Report. Wasserman tells me he believes there may be a narrow majority in the House who could be privately willing to support Boehner allowing a vote on something that could pass with mostly Dems, thereby not jeopardizing his Speakership. Wasserman describes these Republicans as lawmakers “who realize that a failure to pass immigration reform is a long term detriment to their party.”
“These are people from very conservative districts who would never be vulnerable in a general election, and only in a primary, but generally sympathize with Boehner,” Wasserman says, adding that these Members would typically have voted with Boehner on maybe half of the most contentious big-ticket items that have passed the House. (See the Fix’s excellent guide to those votes.) As examples, Wasserman cited Reps. Mike Simpson of Idaho, Robert Woodall of Georgia, and Steve Womack of Arkansas.
“A lot rides on whether Boehner receives assurances from his members that they’ll continue to support him if he brings such a bill to the floor,” Wasserman says. If he does end up allowing this, Wasserman says several dozen GOP members might be comfortable supporting comprehensive reform — a coalition of Republicans from moderate districts, from districts with significant Latino populations, and from swing districts where “the business community drives Republican behavior more than social conservatives do.” You would probably only need two dozen Republicans to pass it.
Boehner, of course, has already publicly ruled out this option, and none of this is to predict that it will happen, or even that it is likely. It is an extreme long shot. But the point is that, despite Boehner’s public assurances to the contrary, it still could happen. And if the answer to question one above proves to be No, this is the only way reform can ever become law. So I hope today’s meeting goes some way towards bringing clarity on these basic points.
* HOUSE REPUBLICANS SIGNAL INFLEXIBILITY ON IMMIGRATION: David Drucker reports on another key thing that could be discussed in that meeting of House GOPers today:
House Republicans could demand a pre-conference agreement guaranteeing the parameters of any immigration-reform compromise with the Senate as the price for green-lighting a conference committee to negotiate a final bill.
This again underscores how difficult it will be to get a majority of House Republicans behind anything that Dems can support. So again: Comprehensive reform’s prospects may turn only on whether Boehner allows it to pass with mostly Dems.
* BOEHNER’S EPIC CHALLENGE: Roll Call reports that House Republicans are utterly without any strategy on the way forward on immigration, and defines Boehner’s heavy lift as follows:
Boehner’s challenge is to get the majority of his members to support either one comprehensive immigration bill or, more likely, a series of stand-alone measures that, when grouped together, would be comparable to the massive overhaul the Senate passed last month.
And, of course, the question would remain whether that “series of stand-alone measures” would include citizenship.
* THE KEY QUESTION AT THE HOUSE GOP MEETING: GOP Rep. Steve King, an anti-reform hardliner, gets this right:
“I think we really need to separate our conference down to, ‘Do you support a path to citizenship, or don’t you?’”
Exactly. Until this question is answered, all the stuff about more enforcement and security is just noise.
* THE REAL REASON CONSERVATIVES OPPOSE IMMIGRATION REFORM: More candor from the aforementioned Steve King:
“It would hurt Republicans, and I don’t think you can make an argument otherwise,” King said. “Two out of every three of the new citizens would be Democrats.”
* IT’S DECISION TIME ON THE NUCLEAR OPTION: Does Harry Reid have the support he needs for a rules change that would eliminate the filibuster on executive nominations? Politico says he just might:
Reid appears to have enough support within the Democratic Caucus to go forward with the proposal, several Democratic senators and aides said.
Hmmm, maybe. This could still be more brinksmanship designed to get Republicans to ease up their blockade on nominations. We’ll know more after tomorrow’s Dem caucus meeting.
* AMERICANS DON’T SEE EDWARD SNOWDEN AS TRAITOR: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that a majority of Americans sees Edward Snowden as a whistleblower, rather than a traitor, by 55-34. The poll also finds 51 percent support the NSA program, though the wording seems questionable. Indeed, by 45-40, Americans are more concerned that anti-terror policies are restricting the average person’s civil liberties, rather than not doing enough to protect the country; a plurality does perhaps generally see overreach here.
* CHARTS OF THE DAY, IMMIGRATION EDITION: Zachary Goldfarb offers up three charts that nicely capture the benefits that immigration reform would mean for the economy and the deficit. What all of this drives home again is how effectively reform opponents have demolished the arguments against it; opposition has always been rooted in an unwillingness to accept a path to citizenship.
* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:
Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas on the competing theories as to what is really driving Harry Reid’s escalation of the “nuclear” threat. Is he genuinely fed up with GOP obstructionism, or is this all kabuki designed to give Mitch McConnell cover for letting a few nominations through?