Wonkbook: Should immigration reform wait till later?

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(Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Eventually, the participants in every tough legislative process have to somehow answer the same question: Why not just wait and do this later?

"Later," in these cases, doesn't exactly mean "later." It doesn't refer to a time like our own, just a few years in the future. No one takes out the trash or walks the dog in this timeline. Rather, when political participants talk about "later," it typically means something more magical: A time quite unlike our own, when some imagined swing in public opinion or landslide elections have made it possible -- nay, likely! -- that this same legislative process can go forward without all the dirty politicking and tough compromises that have befouled the current effort.

Immigration reform is beginning to have to face the "later" question. In a Weekly Standard editorial entitled "Kill The Bill," Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry make the argument sharply: "If Republicans take the Senate and hold the House in 2014, they will be in a much better position to pass a sensible immigration bill."

The odds that Republicans would go anywhere near immigration reform in 2015 after they painfully, anxiously killed it in 2013 are vanishingly low. But let's say, hypothetically, they did. It's easy enough to imagine the Democratic -- and Hispanic -- response: If Democrats win the White House again in 2016 and increase their numbers in the House and Senate, they will be in a much better position to pass a sensible immigration bill.

That's the thing about "later" The other side has a vision of it, too.

After all, the demographics of midterm elections might be a bit more favorable to the Republicans, but the demographics of presidential elections are more favorable to Democrats -- and becoming better every year. Plus, the fact that Republicans killed bipartisan immigration reform in 2013 and then turned around and offered security-first legislation Hispanics found offensive in 2015 is only going to help amp up Latino turnout. And nothing shakes a political party out of its stubbornness like losing three presidential elections in a row and watching the country's demographics turn further towards your opponents.

On the margin, the Democrats have the better of this argument. If immigration reform dies in 2013 it's ridiculous to believe it's returning in 2015. But it's not at all ridiculous to believe it's returning in 2017, after Scott Walker loses to Hillary Clinton with only 16 percent of the (now even larger) Latino vote.

That said, "later" is always far less certain than now, and it never goes nearly as well as its proponents think. It's entirely possible that "later" is a world where immigration reform doesn't come back around for six or eight or 10 years. That might sound comforting for some Republicans, but it's also possible that's a world where the issue remains live the whole time, bedeviling them in election after election.

And "later," of course, is a very long time for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants who are suffering now. That, ultimately, is the moral failing of "later" arguments: They tend to be airy abstractions by political strategists unaffected by the issues at hand. It's always easy to wait for a more perfect bill if you're unaffected by the status quo.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 44 percent. That's the percentage of all U.S. hospitals that say they use at least a basic system of electronic health records. That figure is up from 8.8 percent in 2008.

Wonkblog's Graphs of the Day: Why Egypt is falling apart.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) EHR FTW; 2) consumer credit growing; 3) immigration reform among the Republicans; 4) oil transport; and 5) the danger of a surveillance state.

1) Top story: Republicans at odds over immigration reform

Republicans meet to talk immigration reform. "A small group of Senate and House Republicans met Monday night to discuss how to pass an immigration overhaul through Congress. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has been hungry to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws this Congress, was planning on going to the session. Most top members of Republican leadership in the House and Senate were not planning on attending the confab, according to sources." Jake Sherman and Seung Min Kim in Politico.

Explainer: The top 5 falsehoods of the immigration debateBecky Bowers and Angie Drobnic Holan in PolitiFact.

Border militarization draws backlash. "[T]he excess is beginning to look like a liability. The deal, which helped pass the Senate rewrite of U.S. immigration laws, is unlikely to sway House Republicans who insist on securing the border before some 11 million undocumented immigrants can begin the naturalization process. And it is alienating allies who are vital to immigration reform’s chances in the House, including a prominent Latino advocacy group and at least one Democratic Representative. In an unexpected wrinkle, even authorities on the border are balking, saying the influx of agents could create more problems than it would solve." Alex Altman in Time Magazine.

 American tastes in food are changing with demography. (Paging Tyler Cowen.) "While the effect of changing demographics has been seen in voting patterns and employment trends, the growing influence on America’s palate of the influx of immigrants from Latin America and Asia has been more subtle, even as grocery shelves increasingly display products containing ingredients like lemon grass and sriracha peppers. For years, multinational food companies have been experimenting with ingredients, often being unable to find appeal broad enough to start or sustain a new brand. But as the buying power of Latino and Asian consumers expands, fruit flavors, hotter spices, different textures and grains and even packaging innovations are becoming essential for big food manufacturers trying to appeal to diverse appetites, according to company executives." Stephanie Strom in The New York Times.

LOWRY and KRISTOL: Kill the bill! "There is no case for the bill, and certainly no urgency to pass it. During the debate over immigration in 2006–07, Republican rhetoric at times had a flavor that communicated a hostility to immigrants as such. That was a mistake, and it did political damage. This time has been different. The case against the bill has been as responsible as it has been damning." Rich Lowry and BIll Kristol in the Weekly Standard.

John Boehner: No House vote on Senate immigration bill. "“I’ve made it clear and I’ll make it clear again, the House does not intend to take up the Senate bill,” Boehner said Monday. “The House is going to do its own job iwon developing an immigration bill.”" Ginger Gibson in Politico.

Immigration bill's starts and stops. "Every time the House bipartisan immigration group set a deadline this year, its members have blown it. Republicans could also decide to take up take the House bipartisan bill, when it’s released, and pick it apart. Putting the Senate-passed bill through House committees and letting members rewrite it is another option, although that now seems more unlikely. Or they could do nothing." Seung Min Kim in Politico.

Music recommendations interlude: Paolo Nutini, "Candy," 2009.

Top op-eds

BERNSTEIN: Learning, or not, from policy error. "In France, growth is flat-lining if not slightly negative, and unemployment is creeping up on 11 percent. But at least among economic elites, many continue to defend the fiscal consolidation, or austerity measures, that have reduced the French budget deficit, e.g., from 7.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to 4.8 percent last year (according to Eurostat)." Jared Bernstein in The New York Times.

DRUM: S&P's idea of self defense is 'we're ridiculous, and nobody should ever take us seriously.' "It's true that courts have long allowed sellers to engage in what's called "puffery."...Basically, you're allowed to make vague claims about your greatness without inviting lawsuits from folks...So when S&P says they use "market leading software," they're probably on firm ground. That's standard puffery. Unfortunately, "transparent," "independent," and "objective" are a little trickier. Those words have actual meaning, and there's only so far you're allowed to stretch them. When your bond ratings are secretly based on the fact that bond issuers are paying you heaps of money for inflated scores, your claims of mere puffery are a lot less likely to succeed." Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

PONNURU: 6 inconvenient truths about Obamacare. "The White House’s decision last week to delay part of its health-care overhaul illustrates six truths about the law that its supporters can’t easily acknowledge. First, important parts of it are badly designed. President Barack Obama’s administration has pulled back on the employer mandate -- the part of the law that fines large businesses that don’t offer health insurance -- because, among other things, it threatened to depress full-time employment before the next congressional elections." Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

BROOKS: The secular society. "Taylor’s investigation begins with this question: “Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say 1500, in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy but even inescapable?” That is, how did we move from the all encompassing sacred cosmos, to our current world in which faith is a choice, in which some people believe, others don’t and a lot are in the middle?...He sees secularization as, by and large, a mottled accomplishment, for both science and faith." David Brooks in The New York Times.

MILBANK: Bush, back to uniting? "It’s standard for former presidents to grow in public esteem as memories fade. In Bush’s case, the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is winding down and the economy is finally recovering. But Bush’s rebound could be accelerated, particularly among Democrats, by the type of assist he gave Obama in the Karl interview." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

Insects interlude: True facts about the Mantis Shrimp.

2) Consumers shake their piggy banks

Pace of consumer borrowing rose in May. "Americans stepped up their borrowing by $19.6 billion in May compared with April, the Federal Reserve said on Monday in its monthly report on consumer credit. That was the biggest jump since a $19.9 billion rise in May 2012. Total borrowing reached a record $2.84 trillion." The Associated Press.

...And that is good news. "Here’s the glass-half-full way of looking at this: Americans are finally feeling more confident about the economy and thus willing to take on debt. Lenders, meanwhile, are growing more comfortable extending loans. The spending enabled by this rising consumer debt can help create a virtuous cycle in which more demand for goods and services creates more jobs, which creates rising income. Indeed, more borrowing by households (and the spending that results) is likely offsetting some of the pain caused by federal spending cuts and deficit reduction." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Here’s a secret decoder ring for reading stories about the next Fed chair. "The most important thing to know at this stage is this: The people who know aren’t talking, and the people who are talking don’t know. For a decision of this much importance and sensitivity, the president is likely to rely on a very small number of senior advisers to come up with a short list of candidates and advise him on their strengths and weaknesses." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

...And those central bankers are honing tools to pop bubbles. "Central bankers everywhere else are watching these experiments closely, among them Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. He and his counterparts around the world, seared by the worst financial crisis in 75 years, are searching for ways to halt borrowing binges before they morph into bubbles, and to push lenders to shore up their defenses before the next crisis arrives...Because financial bubbles so often involve real estate—and because that sector was at the center of the last crisis—many are focusing on ways to control booms in housing prices by curbing mortgage lending." David Wessel and Alex Frangos in The Wall Street Journal.

...Meanwhile, financial deregulation just passed the House. "One of these bills is H.R. 1341, Financial Competitive Act, which would require the Financial Stability Oversight Council to study differences in how the U.S. and other countries implement capital requirements for derivatives...The second bill is H.R. 1564, the Audit Integrity and Job Protection Act. This legislation would overrule a decision by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to require small public companies to periodically rotate their outside auditors." Pete Kasperowicz in The Hill.

Credit unions raising overdraft fees faster than banks, report says. "Credit unions have been raising overdraft fees on ATM withdrawals, checks and debit card purchases at a faster pace than banks to offset a decline in consumers overdrawing their accounts, research firm Moebs Services said in a report to be released Tuesday. The report shows that banks have held the median overdraft charge at $30 a transaction for the past four years, while credit unions have upped their price from $25 to $28 a transaction in the past two years. Fees are still lower on average at credit unions as of the first three months of 2013." Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

More good news: OMB shrinks its budget deficit forecast. "The Obama administration Monday said it expects this year’s annual budget deficit to come in sharply lower than it previously forecast, a development that officials used to make the case that deep cuts to spending should be reversed...In its midyear review, the Office of Management and Budget said the deficit this year is expected to be $759 billion — $214 billion less than it had forecast in April, when President Obama released his 2014 budget plan. The administration counts $43 billion in reduced spending on defense and domestic programs — largely the result of the sequestration — as contributing to the smaller deficit." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

U.S.-E.U. trade talks open amid new criticism from labor, environmental groups. "U.S. labor and environmental groups, largely silent in the run-up to the U.S.-Europe free-trade talks, now say they worry that the negotiations could be used to weaken consumer, health and other standards on both sides of the Atlantic...[A]U.S. labor and environmental groups, largely silent in the run-up to the U.S.-Europe free-trade talks, now say they worry that the negotiations could be used to weaken consumer, health and other standards on both sides of the Atlantic." Howard Schneider in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Talks over a huge U.S.-Europe trade deal start this week. Here’s what you need to knowLydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

We’re an increasingly cashless society. So why is there more cash than ever? "On June 26, the amount of U.S. currency in circulation reached an all-time high of $1.19 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. What’s been driving this trend? Fear, probably...[S]hunning their banks and brokers, people in the United States and abroad are storing more of their money in the form of $100 bills." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

All the best Tumblrs interlude: Actual teen vs adult teen, in movies.

3) The rise of electronic health records

Most hospitals still don’t use digital records. But more do than last year! "This is actually considered, in the health policy world, as a big success, a huge increase since 2011, when 26.6 percent of hospitals had made the switch to electronic record keeping...One reason to be optimistic, Painter says, is the influence of the HITECH Act, part of the stimulus package passed in 2009, which gives hospitals incentive payments to implement electronic records. Those incentives are available until 2014. After that, hospitals will start being penalized by the federal government for not going digital." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Longread: "Special Deal," by Haley Sweetland Edwards in Washington Monthly.

Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harder. "The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year. There were two noteworthy changes to Obamacare in the last seven days. The first is that the employer mandate, which tells businesses with more than 50 employees to provide affordable insurance or pay a per-employee penalty, won’t be enforced until 2015. The second is that people applying for low-income subsidies in the exchanges will face fewer audits in 2014." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Obamacare delay may encourage false tax reports, experts say. "The Obama administration's decision to roll back reporting requirements under ObamaCare could lead to false tax reports in certain GOP-led states, health policy experts said...Typically, looser income verification would raise concerns about people under-reporting their income to avoid paying taxes. But some health policy experts say the opposite could be true in this case. In states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, people might over-state their income to become eligible for subsidized private coverage through the exchanges." Sam Baker in The Hill.

It’s not just the employer mandate: Three Obamacare delays you haven’t heard about. "For many Americans, July 5 was a great day to relax, sleep off a hangover and take in a long weekend. For the Obama administration, it was the perfect moment to release a 606-page final regulation on some of the health-care law’s most key provisions. Mostly, the rule spelled out in no short detail how the Medicaid expansion and health insurance marketplaces will work. It also included a number of delays that, up until Friday, had not been made public. The word “delay” turns up 45 times in the document." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Paul Ryan wants Obamacare's new cost. "House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is requesting a new cost estimate for ObamaCare in light of a decision to delay the law's employer mandate. Ryan's staff asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to reevaluate the law's budget impact after the White House said Tuesday that larger employers will not be required to offer health insurance until 2015." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Americans for Prosperity has questions about Obamacare. We have answers! "If we can’t pick our own doctor, how do I know my family is going to get the care they need? This question sets up a bit of a false hypothetical, given that the health-care law doesn’t really stop people from picking their own doctors. Instead, it’s pretty much up to each individual to pick a health insurance plan that they feel meets their needs. In my discussions with state marketplace officials, nearly all say they plan to have links to lists of which doctors work with which health insurance carriers." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Oregon just launched the world’s most twee Obamacare marketplace. "It’s only fitting, then, that Oregon, a state replete with artists and hipsters, will have local songwriters promote its new health marketplace, Cover Oregon. The first ads, which go live on television Tuesday, seriously could have been pulled straight out of Portlandia." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Wisconsin abortion law blocked. "A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday evening to block enforcement of a new Wisconsin law that bans doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing abortions. U.S. District Judge William Conley granted the order following a hearing in a lawsuit filed Friday by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services. It alleged the requirement would unconstitutionally restrict the availability of abortions in the state, violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process guarantee and unconstitutionally treats doctors who perform abortions differently from those who perform other procedures." The Associated Press.

Infrastructure interlude: What travel by train at 250 mph looks like.

4) Oil, by train or by pipeline?

Canadian train disaster sharpens debate on oil transportation. "The explosion near the border of Maine also reverberated in the rest of Canada and the United States, where people are hotly debating what mode of transportation is safest and most economical for carrying the steadily growing output of crude oil from North Dakota and northern Alberta’s oil sands. And it reignited calls for tougher standards for ethanol and crude oil tank cars." Steven Mufson in The Washington Post.

Solar-powered plane Solar Impulse reaches milestone for renewable energy. "The pilots of the first solar-powered plane to fly across America hope to transform the momentum of their historic flight into a grand-scale push for clean technology. Solar Impulse pilot and project president Bertrand Piccard said his team was “elated” by the smooth landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday night from an aviation and a renewable-energy standpoint." Devin Kelly in the Los Angeles Times.

Really interlude: The audacity of bro.

5) Your government spies on you. What could go wrong?

Here’s what can go wrong when the government builds a huge database about Americans. "These stories illustrate some of the kinds of misconduct that could occur with the NSA’s database of the nation’s phone calls. A record of every American’s phone calls and cellphone locations could be even more attractive to unethical government employees than the NCIC database...Of course, the NSA says it has safeguards in place to prevent this kind of abuse. According to the agency, just 22 officials have the authority to authorize queries against the phone records database." Timothy B. Lee in The Washington Post.

NSA backlash hits privacy legislation. "Recent disclosures about government surveillance programs have reinvigorated hope for a bill that tightens personal privacy rights and torpedoed chances for another that gives more authority to law enforcement. The revelations offer an opening for updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which would require law enforcement to get a warrant before searching personal emails. And despite a push by the Obama administration, members have gone silent on a bill to expand federal wiretapping capabilities — the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act." Jessica Meyers and Alex Byers in Politico.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Coal pollution in China is much deadlier than anyone realizedBrad Plumer.

An urban redevelopment train wreck shows the peril of 1970s federal planningLydia DePillis.

It’s not just the employer mandate: Three Obamacare delays you haven’t heard aboutSarah Kliff.

Here’s a secret decoder ring for reading stories about the next Fed chairNeil Irwin.

We’re an increasingly cashless society. So why is there more cash than ever? Zachary A. Goldfarb.

Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harderEzra Klein.

Consumer debt is soaring. That’s good news (for now)Neil Irwin.

Americans for Prosperity has questions about Obamacare. We have answersSarah Kliff.

Most hospitals still don’t use digital records. But more do than last yearSarah Kliff.

Oregon just launched the world’s most twee Obamacare marketplaceSarah Kliff.

Interview: Confused about Egypt? An expert walks you through itEzra Klein.

Here’s what can go wrong when the government builds a huge database about AmericansTimothy B. Lee.

Talks over a huge U.S.-Europe trade deal start this week. Here’s what you need to knowLydia DePillis.

This graph shows why Egypt is falling apartBrad Plumer.

Et Cetera

The European Central Bank's forward guidance is a murky messEvan Soltas in Bloomberg.

Obama announces effort to make government more ‘user-friendly’. Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Dave Camp eyes potential Democratic allies on tax reformKelsey Snell in Politico.

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