Wonkbook: Immigration bill stuck at House-Senate border

July 11, 2013

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(Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
(Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Here's a question a lot of immigration supporters on the Hill are asking: Where are the Latino groups?

On Tuesday, House Republicans disappeared behind closed doors to map out an immigration strategy. They emerged with a statement saying the Senate bill was garbage and that the House intended to go slow, go piece-by-piece, and to always remember that President Barack Obama is thoroughly untrustworthy and Obamacare is horrible.

Seriously. Read it yourself.

I e-mailed a top House Republican aide saying that the statement didn't make me think a deal was particularly likely. Was I missing something? The reply was one word: "No."

An important sub-dynamic in the House's debate is the weakening of the political argument for immigration. In January of 2013, the political power of the Hispanic electorate was bruised into the Republican psyche. Six months later, it's getting harder for them to remember what they were so afraid of, anyway. The dominant arguments in the party now are that they can focus on amping up the white vote, or maybe just wait till 2015 and pass something more restrictionist after they win the midterms.

The question many immigration supporters on the Hill are asking is how the Latino community has let this change happen. Electoral wounds heal with time, of course, but good organizing is meant to remind forgetful politicians of what, exactly, it is that they're afraid of. But there's been very little of that on the Hill. There's been nothing like the May Day protests of 2006, or the anti-Obamacare townhalls of 2009, or the tea party rallies of 2010. Even Democrats marvel at how little they hear from the Latino community compared to, say, labor, or business.

Part of that, advocates say, is that so long as immigration was going well, there's been a dedicated strategy of non-confrontation. "It’s amazing the number of people from the White House on down who’ve deferred to Chuck Schumer strategy to hug people into the bill, to assume no permanent enemy, to be very convivial," says one advocate.

That strategy is clearly falling apart. And the August recess is coming. So the question now is whether the Hispanic community can use August to strike fear into the hearts of Republicans opposing this bill, much as conservative activists used August of 2009 to strike fear into the hearts of Democrats supporting health-care reform.

There are already some plans to do that. "We are going to model for them in the near future what messaging about them in the Latino community might look like in the next couple of years," says the activist. "That was not the mentality in June."

The simplest way to explain the politics of the bill right now is that, after the election, the Republican Party was scared of the Hispanic electorate, and so they wanted to act. But Republicans are no longer that scared of Hispanic voters, and so they no longer want to act. Unless the Hispanic community can change that, there won't be an immigration bill.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 45 percent. That's the share who said in a new poll that the U.S. government's antiterror policies compromised civil liberties too much. 40 percent said it hadn't gone far enough. That's a huge change from 25 percent and 63 percent in 2010, when the same question was last asked.

Wonkbook's Quotation of the Day: "Now we have governance by blog post, I guess," said Rep. Tom Price of the U.S. Treasury notice delaying the employer mandate's tax reporting by a year.

Wonkblog's Graphs of the Day: Obama’s economic case for an immigration overhaul in 3 charts.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) immigration reform ensnared; 2) the Fed's problems; 3) abortion politics heat up; 4) catchup time on student loans; and 5) anti-LGBT discrimination bill passes Senate committee.

1) Top story: Immigration bill stuck at House-Senate border

House GOP’s statement on immigration doesn’t make a deal look likely. "Earlier today, House Republicans huddled on immigration. After the meeting, the leadership and the chairmen of the relevant committees released a joint statement that included very specific attacks on Democrats, on Obamacare, and on the Senate bill, but no mention of a path to citizenship, or even of DREAMers. Whatever you thought the odds of an immigration deal were this morning, you should probably think they’re slightly lower tonight." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

@hillhulse: Just guessing here, but i figure that joint House leadership statement on immigration might have been put together BEFORE the GOP meeting.

...They're resisting an overhaul. "Meeting for the first time as a group to hash out their approach to immigration, House Republicans on Wednesday came down overwhelmingly against a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, putting in jeopardy the future of sweeping legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants...House Republicans huddled in a crucial two-and-a-half-hour session in the basement of the Capitol as their leaders tried to devise some response to the demand for immigration legislation...The bottom line was clear: The Republican-controlled House does not plan to take up anything resembling the Senate bill...The House also does not intend to move very quickly, and some Republicans are wary of passing any measure at all that could lead to negotiations with the Senate." Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

@markknoller: Tomorrow at the WH. More talk on enacting Immigration Reform as Pres Obama meets with Gang of Eight Senators McCain & Schumer.

...And here's what they have to say for themselves. "Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called the Senate approach “totally irreconcilable” with the views of House Republicans. He cast doubt on whether the two chambers would ever reach an agreement. “We’ve passed lots of bills in the House that we send to the Senate and we don’t hear back from them,” he said. But Rep. Jeff Denham ­(R-Calif.)­ was among those who implored their colleagues to work on the issue. “No more excuses. It’s time for action, Rep. Raúl R. Labrador ­(R-Idaho),­ one of the party’s leading voices on the issue, acknowledged that “there are some people who don’t want to get to a solution.” But, he added, “I think the vast majority of the conference wants to get something done.”" Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Obama’s economic case for an immigration overhaul in 3 chartsZachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Paul Ryan working behind the scenes to push comprehensive immigration legislation. "Two weeks after the end of his failed vice-presidential bid, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was already thinking ahead to another big fight: immigration reform. And he was thinking about it in a bipartisan way...[S]upporters of an immigration overhaul expected Ryan to emerge as the House’s most prominent public voice on the issue....Instead, Ryan has worked quietly behind the scenes, declining to become the public face of the issue and leaving the effort without any prominent sponsors among the House GOP leadership." Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

@jonathanweisman: Paul Ryan's pitch that U.S. needs more robust immigration to make up for declining fertility rates may be good economics but iffy politics.

Bush’s call for GOP to embrace immigration reform seems to have little effect. "Former president George W. Bush, who enjoyed healthy support among Latinos during his time in office, has broken a virtual five-year silence in national politics by calling on fellow Republicans to embrace immigration reform at a time when conservatives are rebelling against the idea. The question is: Is anyone listening? Judging from the immigration debate now roiling the House, probably not." David Nakamura and Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Immigration split hardens in House. "House Republicans coalesced Wednesday around a piecemeal approach to overhauling immigration laws, bucking pressure from the Senate and the White House to move quickly...One of the sharpest fault lines is over how to deal with millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The Senate plan lays out a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. House Democratic leaders said they're not inclined to vote for anything less than that. Republicans, however, are divided. While some have said they're open to allowing such a path, many have balked." Sara Murray and Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.

@samsteinhp: Anyone who wants the GOP presidential nominee can't touch comprehensive immigration reform. Just look at what it did to McCain in 2008.

Pelosi: House should pass a bill. "Seeming to almost echo House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday the House should determine its own comprehensive immigration bill separate from the one passed by the Senate. “I always support the prerogatives of the House, and I want the House to have a bill that goes to conference where the debate will take place,” she told reporters." Ginger Gibson in Politico.

A cynical solution to the immigration impasse. "A few months back I sat down with an aide to a top House Republican to talk about immigration reform. The sticking point, he said, was going to be the path to citizenship. Well, the sticking point is getting pretty sticky...Some Republicans who want a comprehensive immigration bill to pass, however, think there’s a way out of this impasse: A path to citizenship that’s so difficult and so time-consuming and expensive that they can convince their members very few immigrants will ever actually use it." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

@elwasson: Gist of immigration meeting is expect some kind of bill this fall at least on border security. House GOP deeply divided on legalization

KLEIN: Obama's biggest problem is Obama. "For the White House, immigration reform perfectly encapsulates the most frustrating reality of President Barack Obama’s second term: If it’s to be a success, Obama needs to stay out of the lawmaking process...In a matter of months, he went from stomping the Republican Party in the election to being told by a key ally that he would have to stay in the background if he wants his top priority to succeed." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.

CHAIT: Conservatives hate all legislation now. "One of the novel developments in conservative thought during the Obama years is a burgeoning hatred not merely for government but for lawmaking...A rational legislative strategy would consider the relative benefits of a law to maintaining the status quo, and weigh the possibilities of a better bill emerging over time. But tea-party logic simply regards the existence of compromise as disqualifying. The moral purity of opposition has become untethered from any political or policy objective, and appears to have sprouted into an actual freestanding principle." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

@daveweigel: DC, where an immigration bill that's discussed then passed in 8 months is "rushed"

DIONNE: The right response to 'no' on immigration. "What do these suggestions have in common? They address legitimate concerns while issuing a challenge to Republicans who believe they can block reform and still win future elections — as long as they expand their support among the white working class...Immigration reform is easier to kill if it is disconnected from the concerns of such wage earners. It’s easier to pass if it is seen as a necessary step toward an inclusive economy where the rights of native-born workers are strengthened because the rights of immigrants are protected — and where the real wages of average workers are rising again." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: Led Zeppelin, "Immigrant Song," 1970.

Top op-eds

DORGAN: Broken promises. "Tribal leaders, parents and some inspiring children I’ve met make valiant efforts every day to overcome unemployment, endemic poverty, historical trauma and a lack of housing, educational opportunity and health care. But these leaders and communities are once again being mistreated by a failed American policy, this time going under the ugly name “sequestration.”...American Indian kids living in poverty are paying a very high price for this misguided abandonment of Congressional decision-making...It’s easy for many to believe those who say that automatic budget cuts aren’t hurting anybody much. But that’s wrong. And I can introduce you to the kids who will tell you why." Byron L. Dorgan in The New York Times.

SOLTAS: Fed skeptics' latest bugaboo is 'financial instability.' "After four years of being wrong, you might think the "inflation-is-nigh" crowd would be a little out of breath and much embarrassed. No, they've just moved on, notes the Atlantic's Matt O'Brien, to another phantom menace: financial stability...But their new argument is as flawed as the old one. It just doesn't fit well with the evidence. Even if the financial system could be stronger, there's no sign that the Fed's easing is blowing up an irresponsible credit bubble. A real threat to financial stability requires widespread overleveraged borrowers, exposed lenders or loose lending standards. None of those are concerns right now. If they were, raising interest rates wouldn't be the best way to fix them." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

'BRADENSON': How the GOP could win the climate debate. "Someone in the GOP needs to say it: conservation is conservative; climate change is real; and conservatives need to lead on solutions because we have better answers than the other side... This conservative alternative envisions a phase-out of subsidies for all sources of energy coupled with a revenue-neutral carbon tax swap." 'Eric Bradenson' in Real Clear Science.

CILLIZZA: Democrats are threatening to change the Senate’s filibuster rules. They should think twice before they do it. "Reid and his Democratic allies seem to believe that by limiting the rule change to simply cabinet and agency appointments, they can keep the long-term implications on the chamber to a minimum. But, politics works on the slippery slope principle. That means that if Democrats cross the line to change a rule to benefit them when they are in the majority, it sets a precedent for rule-changing that is not limited to filibusters on agency and cabinet nominees in future Senates — including those controlled by Republicans." Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

MILBANK: Republicans’ Obamacare search-and-destroy mission. "Last week, the administration announced it was delaying by a year the implementation of one of Obamacare’s provisions, the requirement that large employers provide health insurance. You’d think the opposition party, which has spent four years denouncing the health-care reforms, would be delighted by the reprieve. But on Wednesday, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to condemn the administration — for incomplete enforcement of the law they hate." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

Photography interlude: Abandoned airplane wrecks.

2) The Fed discovers #centralbankerproblems

Fed is deeply divided over winding down stimulus program. "Federal Reserve officials remained deeply divided over the best way to wind down their massive economic stimulus program, new internal documents show, and were unable to craft a traditional policy statement that described their thinking last month...[M]inutes of last month’s meeting released Wednesday reveal little agreement over the date for starting that process. Officials could not even reach consensus over what to say publicly and left the task to Bernanke...Perhaps the most prescient concern was that any hint of a reduction in stimulus would be seen as the first step in the Fed’s exit from its extraordinary support of the economic recovery." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Primary sources: The Fed's June 18-19 minutes.

Fed leaders knew they were blowing it at their last meeting, and other tidbits from the FOMC minutes. "Some of the committee members really don’t want to be talking about exit strategy right now. The selloff happened in part because markets interpreted any talk of ending the Fed’s QE policies as signaling that the end might be imminent. It’s clear that some officials at the central bank were worried about exactly that...No wonder Fed officials’ speeches on these things often sound like a cacophony. That’s even more true if you get them all in the same room." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

The debate reflects a divergence between opinions on bond-buying and zero interest rates. "The Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said on Wednesday that the Fed was likely to extend the centerpiece of its campaign to bolster the economy — keeping short-term interest rates close to zero — even as it prepares to wind down another key stimulus program that faces mounting internal opposition...Mr. Bernanke echoed recent remarks by other Fed officials in suggesting that the Fed was likely to maintain its suppression of short-term interest rates for some time after unemployment dropped below that threshold, and that officials were considering lowering the threshold." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.

Rate surge catches some banks off-guard. "A swift, steep rise in long-term interest rates since early May, stoked by comments from the Fed chairman, is presenting challenges and opportunities for the largest U.S. banks as they struggle to overcome lackluster loan demand, a weak economy and a slew of new regulations that are crimping profits...The full percentage-point jump in long-term rates, the sharpest increase since 2010, already has eroded $31 billion in accounting gains from banks' securities portfolios through late June, according to Federal Reserve data." Dan Fitzpatrick in The Wall Street Journal.

NYSE Euronext to take over Libor. "Libor, the scandal-tarred benchmark owned by a British banking organization, is being sold to NYSE Euronext, the U.S. company that runs the New York Stock Exchange. The deal is the British government's latest attempt to salvage Libor's integrity, after multiple banks acknowledged trying to profit by rigging the rate...While Libor underpins trillions of dollars in financial contracts and generates about £2 million a year in revenue, a person familiar with the deal said the benchmark rate was sold to NYSE for a token £1—a sign of the heavy toll inflicted by the rate-rigging scandal." David Enrich, Jacob Bunge, and Cassell Bryan-Low in The Wall Street Journal.

Economists dial down growth forecasts. "The nation's economic growth pace may have fallen below 1% in the second quarter, several economists said Wednesday, after wholesalers' inventories declined in May. Barclays economists said the new numbers subtracted 0.4 percentage point from its tracking estimate for growth in gross domestic product, which now stands at an annualized rate of 0.6%. Macroeconomic Advisers subtracted 0.5 percentage point from its estimate, bringing it to 0.7%...Inventories are a critical part of GDP." Jeffrey Sparshott in The Wall Street Journal.

Oil prices continue to rise. "U.S. oil prices on Wednesday soared past $106 a barrel, their highest level since March 2012, as easing bottlenecks in the Midwest are enabling refiners to ramp up operations and sate the globe's thirst for fuel. The jump in prices was sparked by data showing a bigger-than-expected drop in U.S. crude-oil supplies last week, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Several recently opened pipelines and rail routes are helping oil companies tap into the huge pool of supplies that were previously trapped in the middle of the country." Dan Strumpf in The Wall Street Journal.

Parenting interlude: A second a day from birth.

3) Abortion issue readies for national attention

Abortion gets tied up in political fights. "Senate Democrats on Wednesday sharply criticized a House-passed bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, disparaging it as an “extreme and dangerous” attack on women’s health.The bill stands no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate but has nonetheless incensed abortion rights activists and others on the left...Abortion debates across the country have recently made national headlines, following the debate over abortion limits in Texas and recent signing of an abortion law in Wisconsin." Jose Delreal in Politico.

Sen. Rubio: Federal abortion bill in progress. "Sen. Marco Rubio is “very supportive” of the effort to introduce a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks, and is working with other senators on the bill, he told POLITICO. The Florida Republican wouldn’t say whether he will be a lead sponsor of the proposed legislation." Burgess Everett in Politico.

Democrats shrug off delays and rally to Obamacare's defense. "Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that they expected to see more delays and snags in President Obama’s efforts to carry out the new health care law, but they affirmed their strong support for the overarching goal of expanded coverage...Administration officials, invited to explain Mr. Obama’s abrupt shift in policy, said they were not ready to testify before the panel. So the task of defending the law fell to House Democrats, who were not consulted or told in advance of the delay...Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, mocked the way the delay was disclosed, saying, “Now we have governance by blog post, I guess.”" Robert Pear in The New York Times.

GOP senators question exchanges' solvency. "Republican senators are asking the administration to explain how ObamaCare's exchanges will operate without long-term increases in corporate fees or patient premiums. Six GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee predicted Wednesday that employers will soon dump workers onto the marketplaces, upping the total bill for consumer tax subsidies over time. They urged federal officials to employ cost-containment measures to ensure that health insurance companies don't face ever-increasing user fees to support the exchanges." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Treasury Dept. defends Obamacare mandate delay. "The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it has the legal authority to delay part of the employer mandate in President Obama's healthcare law. In response to questions from congressional Republicans, Treasury said the delay was "an exercise of the Treasury Department's longstanding administrative authority" to provide flexibility with new laws." Sam Baker in The Hill.

Q: What do porta-potties, coffee cups and airplanes have in common? A: Obamacare. "In Connecticut, selling Obamacare involves renting an airplane. Oregon might try to reel in hipsters with branded coffee cups for their lattes. And in neighboring Washington, the effort could get quite intimate: The state is interested in sponsoring portable toilets at concerts in an effort to reach uninsured young adults. With 83 days left until the health law’s insurance marketplaces open for business, public awareness remains low. Most polling data suggest that few Americans are aware of how the Affordable Care Act works – or that it even exists." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Adorable animals interlude: Baby sloths taking a bath.

4) Incomplete grade on student loans

Senate student loan interest rate bill fails on procedural vote. "A Senate bill that would restore a low interest rate on one type of federal student loan for another year failed to clear a procedural hurdle Wednesday, sending the issue back to the negotiating table as lawmakers try to reach a consensus before the August recess. The bill would have also bought lawmakers more time to craft a long-term strategy for setting interest rates for all federal education loans...There was also a heated debate at a weekly luncheon for Democratic senators Tuesday, during which Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and mostly Republicans." Jenna Johnson in The Washington Post.

This fight reveals a rift among congressional Democrats. "The student loan issue was supposed to be a political bonanza for Democrats, who were convinced that Republicans would yield on legislation extending the subsidized rate. Instead, it has revealed the kinds of divisions usually on display with Republicans — splitting rank-and-file Democrats from an emerging centrist group that has become increasingly willing to buck its leaders...House Republicans latched on to the president’s plan and passed a measure in May that was similar enough to the White House proposal to give Republicans solid political cover against Democratic attacks." Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

Aah interlude: rainymood.com.

5) Senate panel to block anti-gay discrimination

Effects of same-sex marriage Court ruling begin to ripple through government. "The federal government is moving quickly to extend benefits like health care and life insurance to gay and lesbian married couples in response to the Supreme Court decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act...In recent days, officials from all three branches of government have notified their workers of the expanded eligibility standards for spousal benefits." Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Senate panel approves protections for gays. "A Senate panel on Wednesday quickly and easily approved a first-of-its-kind anti-discrimination measure that would provide workplace protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people...Three Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted for the bill, which supporters hope will improve its chances to pass the Senate with the 60 votes it will need...Supporters said they were emboldened by the 15-to-7 vote on Wednesday and took it as yet another sign, after last month’s Supreme Court decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, that gay rights are on an inexorable climb." Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

In Apple case, ‘The line between the legal and the illegal seems so thin.’ Timothy B. Lee.

Is it time for food stamps to come out of the farm billBrad Plumer.

Edward Snowden can go to Venezuela, Nicaragua, or Bolivia. Here, we help him decideDylan Matthews.

A cynical solution to the immigration impasseEzra Klein.

Bad news: fossil fuels are more than keeping up with clean energyBrad Plumer.

Barnes & Noble’s troubles don’t show why bookstores are doomed. They show how they’ll surviveLydia DePillis.

A judge says Apple fixed e-book prices. This chart shows how they did itTimothy B. Lee.

No, Oregon is not abolishing tuitionDylan Matthews.

Wal-Mart’s threatening to pull out of D.C. if it has to pay a higher minimum wage. So whatLydia DePillis.

Fed leaders knew they were blowing it at their last meeting, and other tidbits from the FOMC minutesNeil Irwin.

House GOP’s statement on immigration doesn’t make a deal look likelyEzra Klein.

Q: What do porta-potties, coffee cups and airplanes have in common? A: ObamacareSarah Kliff.

Et Cetera

College can be risky investment, report saysJosh Mitchell in The Wall Street Journal.

Political opinion shifts on the security-liberty balance, and towards libertyNate Silver in The New York Times.

House moves to set up vote on split farm billErik Wasson in The Hill.

House oversight committee schedules another IRS hearingJosh Hicks in The Washington Post.

Lawmakers say administration’s lack of candor on surveillance weakens oversightPeter Wallsten in The Washington Post.

Battle rages over Obama’s climate standards for Keystone XL pipelineSteven Mufson in The Washington Post.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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