Three signs of trouble for immigration reform in the House

The Senate's bipartisan immigration reform effort picked up steam this week following an agreement to beef up border security, a nonpartisan analysis concluding the bill would slash deficits by nearly $200 billion over the next decade, and conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly's endorsement.

 (Reuters) (Reuters)

But over in the House is a different picture. There are some emerging signs of trouble on the other side of the Capitol for comprehensive reform advocates. Here are the three biggest ones:

1. An unruly GOP Conference: The House's failure to pass a farm bill Thursday was a stark reminder that the lower chamber's Republican Conference just can't be led right now. Most Democrats voted against the bill, but they were joined by enough conservatives who opposed it from the right to sink the measure. From the "Plan B" debacle in last year's debate over tax rates to a recent effort to ban abortions after 20 weeks, the conservative wing of the House has made its voice heard on multiple occasions. So if the Senate passes an immigration bill by a wide margin, it remains to be seen whether that impresses anyone on the conservative side of the GOP Conference enough to shift their views. Given the track record of House Republicans, it could be a hard sell even if the Senate bill gets 70+ votes.

2. Bohener's Hastert Rule remark: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed this week not to bring an immigration bill to the floor that did not have the support of a majority of House Republicans. Setting such a condition in advance only narrows the path to passage. Boehner didn’t rule out relying on Democrats to pass a final version of immigration legislation that could be negotiated between the House and the Senate. But the last thing he needs right now for his own political future is to stoke more anger within his conference. Boehner will face pressure from Senate Republicans, donors, and other GOP players to get immigration reform done. But he's making clear early that despite all that, he's not going to walk away from his conference to get a deal done. And that hard line will make it more difficult for reform to happen, given the opposition on the right to pillars of the Senate bill.

3. The GOP primary threat: This isn't new this week but it bears repeating, because, as the gun debate showed, it doesn't matter what public opinion says or what other external factors exist, members of Congress will ultimately prioritize the outlook of their constituents over whichever way the national conversation is leaning. If they don't, they up the chances of losing their jobs. Redistricting has contributed to a situation in which many House Republicans represent safe GOP districts in which the threat of a primary is worth more worry than being defeated in the general election. A vote for immigration reform could become an easy way for potential challengers to get to the right of incumbents in some Republican districts. And rest assured, GOP members will not lose sight of that.

RNC outraises DNC: The Republican National Committee raised $7.3 million and ended the month with $10.8 million in the bank, it announced Thursday. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee raised $5.9 million and banked about $6 million. It is carrying $19.8 million in debt, while the RNC is nearly debt-free.

Fixbits: 

President Obama will nominate former Bush administration Justice Department official James Comey to be the next head of he FBI.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced an amendment to the immigration bill that would effectively strip the measure of its path to citizenship.

Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Tex.) father said he "basically bribed" a Cuban official in order to come to the U.S.

Anthony Weiner explained his reaction to a woman's use of a gay slur.

Must-reads:

"New documents reveal parameters of NSA’s secret surveillance programs" -- Ellen Nakashima, Barton Gellman and Greg Miller, Washington Post

"The Christie-Chiesa conundrum" -- Maggie Haberman and Manu Raju, Politico

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · June 20, 2013