The Democrats’ latest long-shot strategy on immigration

Tomorrow, House Democratic leaders will file a “discharge petition” designed to force a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill being pushed by House Dems. The Congressional Budget Office affirmed today that the proposal — known as H.R. 15 — would slash the deficit by $900 billion over 20 years.

That won’t be enough to get many (or even any) House Republicans to sign it, even if they say they favor reform and want to reduce the deficit, because that would constitute a betrayal of the GOP leadership.  But getting enough signatures — it would need around two dozen Republicans to get to the 218 necessary to force a vote – ultimately isn’t the real goal of filing a discharge petition.

Rather, the more important aim is to give those House Republicans who are generally pro-reform a hook to exert more private pressure on GOP leaders to act, by letting the piecemeal reform proposals that are knocking around among House Republicans get a vote.

I’m told immigration advocacy groups and labor have drawn up a target list of around 30 House Republicans who have previously expressed public support for reform and/or a path to citizenship, to be targeted with pressure back home in their districts.

Among the Republicans on that list: David Valadao, Jeff Denham, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Joe Heck, Daniel Webster, Aaron Schock, and Kevin McCarthy, who is the third ranking GOP leader but represents a lot of Latinos and has expressed support for legal status.

To be sure, Valadao, Denham and Ros-Lehtinen have already indicated they won’t sign the petition. But they will be targeted anyway. The hope is that the pressure on them that results from not signing a discharge petition (given a chance to prove they support reform, they punted) will be an incentive to get them to pressure leadership to act.

It remains to be seen how much money will be put into these efforts; that’s being debated right now. A real campaign could result in ads. But whether or not that happens, you will likely see organizing in their districts in the days ahead.

Most House Republicans, cossetted away in safe districts, would shrug at the thought of pressure from immigration groups. But the key nuance is that the Republicans who will be targeted have already demonstrated that they want to act on reform, or at least want to appear willing to act, because their districts are home to a lot of Latinos or to agricultural or tech interests that want reform.

The hope is that successful organizing could conceivably persuade them to tell GOP leaders that they are feeling heat on the issue and that it would be helpful if leadership showed movement on GOP legislation. The existence of the discharge petition could also prompt local media to ask these Republicans why, if they say they support reform, they won’t sign on.

Obviously getting these House Republicans to feel sufficient pressure is a long shot. And even if these Republicans were to urge the leadership to move forward, it’s an even longer shot that leaders would listen.

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UPDATE: I’m told that GOP Reps. Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner of Colorado will also be targeted. The latter is particularly interesting because he’s running statewide (for Senate).

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.
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