Wonkbook: Cantor’s stunning loss likely means immigration reform is dead

June 11

Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.


(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 4.5 million. That's the number of U.S. job openings in April, the most in seven years and another sign of the labor market's continuing recovery.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: These charts show that U.S. is generating millionaires faster than anywhere in the world — except China.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) One primary may have killed immigration reform; (2) can we truly recover from the Great Recession?; (3) amid shootings, a look at school safety; (4) small-business Obamacare headaches; and (5) swift VA legislating.

1. Top story: What Cantor's loss means for immigration reform and the political landscape

Cantor loses primary in shocker after his support for pathway to citizenship. "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos....The dour and businesslike Cantor had embraced confrontation enough to alienate some establishment types....But he also had made moves that alienated the party’s confrontational wing. Cantor, for instance, had championed a Republican version of the Dream Act, which would enable some illegal immigrants who entered the country as children to qualify for in-state college tuition rates. Although he never brought the legislation to the House floor, his support for the idea irritated staunch opponents of immigration reform." Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella and David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.

Primary source: Read Cantor's anti-"amnesty" mailers. Dara Lind in Vox.

Context: GOP members who backed immigration reform easily survived primary challenges. "Some other Republicans who have been much more supportive of overhauling immigration laws have easily survived primary challenges. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), an author and champion of the Senate immigration bill, topped 50% in a crowded field to avoid a runoff in his race for a third term. In North Carolina, Rep. Renee Ellmers last month won her GOP primary against an opponent who made similar attacks. Both Mr. Graham and Ms. Ellmers defended their support for immigration legislation while Mr. Cantor portrayed himself as equally opposed to 'amnesty.'" Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal.

Still, Cantor's primary loss could imperil immigration reform. "Mr. Cantor took a somewhat more moderate stance on the issue by supporting a pathway for young undocumented immigrants to gain legal status....Nonetheless, immigration may have played a more prominent role in Mr. Cantor’s race than in those races. Regardless of the exact reason for Mr. Cantor’s defeat, the news media’s focus on immigration is likely to deter Republicans from supporting comprehensive immigration reform." Nate Cohn in The New York Times.

@BenjySarlin: Cantor losing makes immigration reform seem near impossible this year -- there will be a panic after this

Public opinion on immigration likely not passionate enough to sway Congress. "Despite a year of contentious national debate and several stalled congressional proposals, Americans still overwhelmingly agree that illegal immigrants living in the United States should be allowed to remain in the country and seek some form of legal status, according to a survey....62 percent of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants a way to become citizens, compared with 63 percent a year ago. An additional 17 percent said in the new poll that illegal immigrants should be able to become legal residents but not full citizens....Stability of views aside, Americans place immigration reform far below jobs, the economy and health care as a priority." Pam Constable and Michelle Boorstein in The Washington Post.

Charts: What do Americans want on immigration reform? It varies by region. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

@Goldfarb: Immigration was always a long shot this year, but smart minds saw opportunities over the summer and in the lame duck.

How the child-migrant border crisis is complicating immigration reform's future. "Just as the president has been trying to show his immigration enforcement policies are working, the situation has become more complicated with the increase of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. border....The childrens' arrivals already have been tagged by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., as 'administration-made' and are happening at a critical time. These summer months were to be the last chance for the House GOP to act on immigration reform before Obama took some presidential action on immigration." Suzanne Gamboa in NBC News.

Vice versa: Lack of reform is putting the children's futures in limbo. "A surge of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. illegally is spiraling into a full-blown humanitarian crisis trapping thousands of children in political stagnation over immigration reform....The emergency efforts are a band-aid for larger problems that extend beyond U.S. borders, and raise concerns over whether the facilities are equipped to handle the rapid increase of children....The move is just the latest action Obama has taken on immigration as comprehensive reform continues to languish on Capitol Hill....But for refugee advocates, the problems run deeper than a political impasse in Congress." Amanda Sakuma in MSNBC.

The administration's latest move: Opening another military base to handle the influx of child migrants. Reuters.

Senate Democrats want to double funding for child migrants. "Senate Democrats moved Tuesday to double the available funding for the care and resettlement of child migrants on the Southwest border — a $1 billion increase that comes at the expense of President Barack Obama’s prized education initiatives. The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee is the strongest response yet by Congress to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Rio Grande Valley. But it also captures the conflicts between the president and his own party — each subject to strict spending caps adopted last December." David Rogers in Politico.

Other immigration reads:

Migrant surge tests deportation slowdown. Justin Sink and Amie Parnes in The Hill.

VINIK: For GOP, there's much more at stake than immigration reform itself. "The immediate policy implications of this are clear: Immigration reform is completely dead. It was a very longshot before Tuesday night. Now, it’s 100 percent over. Cantor’s loss shows how toxic the subject is for any incumbent Republican. It doesn’t bode well for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential ambitions as well. But it also doesn’t bode well for the party as a whole. Immigration reform is going to continue being a national issue. Republicans will still have to take a stance on it — and the only stance they can take is one that alienates Hispanics." Danny Vinik in The New Republic.

@JHWeissmann: Man, the GOP is really damned if they do, damned if they don't at this point

LIND: Reform never stood much of a chance anyway. "It's not as if the House was about to take up immigration reform this summer. Far from it. With only a handful of days in session over the summer, and the threat of executive action looming this fall, the House gave no indication that it was considering any immigration bill. The bills that had passed out of committee on 2013 appeared to have been abandoned by House leadership. The principles that leading Republicans released on immigration reform in January 2014 got shelved less than a week later. And every time Speaker John Boehner even went on the record talking about the need to persuade the caucus to act on immigration, he had to backpedal." Dara Lind in Vox.

PONNURU: Nobody really knows what it means. "It is easy enough to attribute his defeat to the sentiment among conservatives that Cantor is not sufficiently hostile to an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and that the Republican establishment is too squishy....But then why did Senator Lindsey Graham, who vocally championed the immigration bill while Cantor distanced himself from it, win walking away in conservative South Carolina? Why did Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is just as much an establishment figure as Cantor, and more favorable to the immigration bill, thump his primary opponent a few weeks ago?" Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View.

Top opinion

THOMPSON: Why young people are struggling to find jobs. "Why can't young people find work, really? There are three reasons. The first reason that young people can't find work is that they're not looking for work, because they're in school....The second reason that young people can't find work is that they're young....The third reason that young people can't find work is that they're having the same trouble that other job-seekers are having following the deep recession and slow recovery....Young people — including college grads — take time to establish themselves in the economy, and they always have. The most important concern today shouldn’t be whether they find work, but what kind of work they find." Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.

WEISSMANN: Forget Elizabeth Warren's student-debt proposal. There's a better one out there already. "There’s a bit of irony here. While Democrats are busy turning America’s student debt crisis into campaign fodder, a Republican may actually have the single best plan for fixing it. His solution lacks the populist punch of Warren’s bill. But the idea could save millions of future borrowers from financial ruin without costing taxpayers a dime — which means that, if it could get enough attention, it might also stand a small chance of becoming law. Since 1983, Tom Petri, a low-key House GOP congressman from Wisconsin, has advocated an idea that education wonks sometimes call 'universal income-based repayment.'" Jordan Weissmann in Slate.

McARDLE: A little student-loan debt never hurt anyone. "People with college degrees are the best-off people in the U.S. They are a cognitive elite with substantially more earning power than almost anyone else....It’s hard to see why we would take money from other people and give it to this group. People with lots of student loan debt and low earnings are, of course, a particularly visible group to journalists....But it’s still disproportionately a problem of the affluent. And the government already spends quite a lot of money on benefits for the affluent....If we wanted a program to help the majority of the population, we’d offer loan guarantees to help poor people get access to reliable cars so that they could have a better shot at getting — and keeping — a well-paying job." Megan McArdle in Bloomberg View.

Musical acrobatics interlude: Watch Weezer's drummer's mid-song Frisbee catch.

2. The Great Recession might have dug an insurmountable hole

Can we ever recover from the Great Recession? Study suggests no. "The Great Recession was bad enough, but the not-so-great recovery might be even worse. It's been so weak that the long-term unemployed might become unemployable, that too little investment today might create bottlenecks tomorrow and that, taken together, we might never get back to growing like we did before the crisis. In other words, we might be permanently poorer. But just how much poorer?...The depressing answer is that, on an economy-weighted average, they think rich countries have lost 8.4 percent of their potential output." Matt O'Brien in The Washington Post.

Are monetary and fiscal policymakers tossing in the towel? "It is possible that those countries which suffered the largest supply shocks then experienced the largest drop in output, even though there was no prior shortfall in demand. It seems to me far more difficult to make the argument work this way round, but economists should be humble about how much they really know about the causes of recessions. Can anything be now done to reverse these losses in capacity?...Those in charge of fiscal and monetary policy are barely, if at all, addressing these problems in their public pronouncements. In fact, a de facto consensus appears to be developing that the losses in potential GDP should be accepted as an unfortunate fact of life. It is a recipe for too easily accepting the second best." Gavyn Davies in The Financial Times.

U.S. winter, Ukraine crisis will cut into global recovery. "In an outlook released Tuesday, the [World Bank] still expects the world economy to grow faster — 2.8 percent this year versus 2.4 percent in 2013. But its new estimate is weaker than the 3.2 percent expansion it had predicted in January....Together, those factors will 'delay the recovery we talked about in January but not derail it,' World Bank economist Andrew Burns told reporters. Helped by super-low interest rates, the world's wealthiest countries will expand 1.9 percent this year, up from 1.3 percent in 2013. In developing countries, growth is expected to stay flat at 4.8 percent....The World Bank...sees the U.S. economy recovering from the weak first quarter and growing 2.1 percent this year, up from 1.9 percent in 2013." Paul Wiseman in the Associated Press.

Oh well, the recovery seems to be going mostly smoothly. "The U.S. economy has decisively turned the corner with small business confidence hitting its highest level in more than 6-1/2 years in May and the number of jobs available rising to pre-recession levels in April. The brightening growth picture was further boosted by another report on Tuesday showing a bigger-than-expected increase in wholesale inventories. The new figures added to employment, auto sales, manufacturing and services sector data in suggesting the economy was now in a full-fledged expansion....Despite the rise in job openings, hiring was little changed in April, a potential suggestion that employers are having trouble finding the workers with the right skills for the jobs available." Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.

Chart: Job openings galore! Josh Zumbrun in The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. recovery should accelerate, but will still end lower than thought due to winter. "Job growth should remain steady and consumer spending will also likely pick up, a survey by the National Association of Business Economists said Monday. The survey of 47 economists from companies, trade associations and academia...also found that economists increasingly agree that the Federal Reserve will end its bond purchase program by the end of this year. That's partly because economists are optimistic about growth for the rest of this year: They expect it will jump to 3.5 percent in the second quarter and remain above 3 percent for the rest of the year." Christopher S. Rugaber in the Associated Press.

Fire interlude: 19 people who should never play with fire.

3. After yet another school shooting, how safe are our schools and colleges?

Depressing number of the day: 74 school shootings since Newtown. " The shooting near Portland is the 74th school shooting since the Newtown massacre in December 2012, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, which is aimed at promoting gun control measures. Fully half of those shootings have occurred so far this year, and it is only the second week of June. That list is limited to school shootings where a gun was fired inside a school building or on a school’s campus, and it does include times when guns were accidentally fired, the group reports....That list is just focused on school shootings the group finds through media reports, so the organization warns that it’s likely under-counting the number of school shootings." Mark Berman in The Washington Post.

Chart: This map shows where the 74 shootings took place. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

This shooting happened just after the 16th annual school safety report's release showed school crime in general is down. "The survey primarily focuses on crime and safety at the nation's elementary and secondary schools, where fewer crimes were reported than 20 years ago, according to the report. Of students ages 12-18, 52 per 1,000 reported being victims of a crime at school in 2012, compared with 181 per 1,000 in 1992, according to the report. Away from school that rate fell from 173 per 1,000 to 38. Males were more likely than females to be victims of crime, and students in urban and suburban areas were more likely than their rural counterparts to have experienced crime." Eric Tucker in the Associated Press.

More charts: Where do students bring guns to school, feel threatened by them, or attack teachers? Rebecca Klein in The Huffington Post.

Serious crime at colleges has dropped, for the most part, with one caveat... "Colleges have become more aggressive about punishing alcohol and drug offenses, even as the rate of serious crime on campuses has dropped....Sspecialists on campus safety cautioned that while there had been some drop, the figures should not be taken at face value. Much of the decline, they said, resulted from new guidelines...on how to define the most common of the serious crimes, burglary." Richard Pérez-Peña in The New York Times.

...but reported sexual assaults have increased 50 percent in a decade. "The Education Department finding does not necessarily indicate a higher frequency of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Rather the report, similar to that which came out last month about a higher number of reported sexual assaults in the military, highlights what is most likely a cultural shift, in which telling authority figures about these incidents is more widely accepted....The report follows a year in which student activists on college campuses across the country have vocally opposed their administration’s handling of sexual assault cases. At several commencement ceremonies this year, students wore red tape on their graduation caps to demonstrate support for victims of sexual assault." Stephanie Haven for McClatchy.

Video: Explaining the college component of the report.

The Senate isn't giving up on gun measures in response to the school shootings. "The 113th Congress is not done with its debate over guns and background checks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hinted on Tuesday that his chamber may vote on the bipartisan gun background checks bill again this year....Asked whether that means the Senate would take back up the legislation from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that failed last year, Reid replied: 'I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another vote on it.' Manchin said in an interview that Reid’s message has been that if the Senate can get five more votes — enough to break a 60-vote threshold filibuster — then the chamber will take the legislation back up. But he’s not there yet." Burgess Everett in Politico.

Other education reads:

Overlooked changes in Obama's student-loan reform. Karen Weise in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Public schools are hurting more in the recovery than they did in the recession. Ben Casselman in FiveThirtyEight.

Calif. teacher tenure ruled unconstitutional. Eric Westervelt in NPR.

Animals interlude: KITTEN ATTACK!

4. Small-business Obamacare headaches

The other Obamacare exchange that's flopping: Small-business Obamacare. "The piece of Obamacare meant to help small businesses provide better health insurance options for their workers failed to launch in Year One, and the Obama administration on Tuesday gave the go ahead for 18 states to put part of it on hold once again. The Small Business Health Options Program is Obamacare’s neglected stepchild....SHOP was meant to encourage companies with up to 100 employees to cover their workers and give them a menu of insurance options. The delay leaves the exchange for small employers hobbled in large parts of the country until at least 2016 and creates another element of the law that’s inconsistent from state to state." Brett Norman in Politico.

Time to ditch the employer mandate? "Last summer, the administration pushed back the mandate for an additional year, until 2015, saying officials needed more time to implement the provision. Seven months later, they pushed the start date back another year for some mid-sized businesses. Despite the delays, there’s already anecdotal evidence to support the concerns from critics. Some companies...'have reportedly constrained growth to avoid becoming subject to the mandate' while others have started to 'cut the hours of part-time employees to below 30 to avoid having to offer them coverage.' In light of those consequences, coupled with the logistical problems the mandate is evidently causing...the voices in favor of dumping the rule are growing louder." J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

In the individual market, insurers are expanding networks in many states. "The insurers that are expanding their networks said they aren't responding to complaints. Instead, they said, the tweaks reflect more willingness by some health-care providers to join the new networks, which often pay them less than traditional employer plans, as well as adjustments to serve the specific populations who enrolled...But insurers also note that limiting the array of doctors and hospitals where services are covered can be a key tactic in keeping down costs. As a result, according to industry officials, narrow networks may expand in certain cases, but they will continue to be common among health-law plans." Anna Wilde Mathews in The Wall Street Journal.

They annoy patients. They scare docs. But narrow networks might be a good thing. "Is it better to confuse patients — or lower their bills? Narrow networks seem to be doing both. The model, under which insurers use quality and cost metrics to limit the number of health care providers participating in a given plan, isn't new. But narrow networks have been in vogue in the post-Affordable Care Act world, as payers seek to roll out offerings that serve patients who are potentially older and sicker — while keeping premium costs within a certain band." Dan Diamond in California Healthline.

Romneycare milestone ahead: Near-zero uninsured rate. "When Massachusetts passed its landmark health coverage law under Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006, no one claimed the state would get to zero, as in 0 percent of residents who are uninsured. But numbers out this week suggest Massachusetts is very close. Between December 2013 and March of this year, when the federal government was urging people to enroll, the number of Massachusetts residents signed up for health coverage increased by more than 215,000. If that number holds, the percentage of Massachusetts residents who do not have coverage has dropped to less than 1 percent." Martha Bebinger in WBUR.

Other health care reads:

In health law, some states see chance to pursue unique solutions. Louise Radnofksy in The Wall Street Journal.

Federal views diverge on proper use of painkillers. Matthew Perrone in the Associated Press.

Obama interlude: He keeps escaping the White House.

5. The one policy area where Congress has moved quickly: VA reform

Well, that didn't take long. "Congress is moving uncharacteristically fast...with the House on Tuesday passing a stand-alone bill that would allow the VA to tackle treatment delays with help from the private sector and the Senate preparing to debate legislation that would enact broad changes for the agency. The developments came one day after the VA released the results of a nationwide audit that found that more than 100,000 veterans are experiencing extensive wait times for care and that about 13 percent of VA schedulers were told to falsify appointment-request dates, further confirming allegations that VA medical centers have manipulated appointment records to hide treatment delays." Josh Hicks and Ed O’Keefe in The Washington Post.

Explainer: The bills' differences, and provisions' prospects for becoming law. Richard Simon in the Los Angeles Times.

Interactive: Check out this sortable, searchable table that shows the waits at a VA facility near you. Alan Zarembo, Ryan Menezes and Maloy Moore in the Los Angeles Times.

Something for wonks to keep an eye on: VA docs this week could offer their prescriptions for their beleaguered agency at a previously scheduled conference. Joe Davidson in The Washington Post.

Should VA officials be prosecuted? It's unclear whether that's viable. "Want to get the attention of staffers at the Veterans Affairs Department during the ever-growing health care scandal? Fire a few top officials or charge them for their crimes as a warning to others....It remains to be seen whether the Justice Department thinks that allegations of altering the wait times for veterans to receive care rises to the level of a criminal prosecution. But Richard Griffin, the acting VA's inspector general, said Monday that firing or prosecuting someone for altering a veteran's records, or changing a timeline to help meet a performance measure, would be the 'shot heard around the system.'" Jordain Carney in National Journal.

For more policy nuggets from the VA hearing... See our handy roundup. Josh Hicks in The Washington Post.

Science interlude: Neil deGrasse Tyson explains black holes to a little kid.

Wonkblog roundup

Why Cantor’s loss is especially bad news for big business. Jia Lynn Yang.

The slow demise of the frequent flyer program. Jia Lynn Yang.

Why a California judge just ruled that teacher tenure is bad for students. Emily Badger.

Will we ever fully recover from the Great Recession? Matt O'Brien.

The Wonkblog reading list: Everyone’s worried about student loans. Max Ehrenfreund.

The student debt domino effect: The CFPB’s Rohit Chopra on how it’s holding back our economy. Ryan McCarthy.

The more you like Obama, the less likely you are to vote this year. Christopher Ingraham.

Cities are passing higher minimum wages — and leaving the suburbs further behind. Emily Badger.

Does Uncle Sam make money lending to students? Max Ehrenfreund.

Et Cetera

After rare instance of congressional compromise, Obama signs $12.3 billion water-project bill. Jim Kuhnhenn in the Associated Press.

BP flies first-ever U.S.-approved commercial drone flight over land. Alan Levin in Bloomberg.

States moving to plug shortfall as federal highway fund dwindles. Jon Kamp and Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.

IRS to publicize a "bill of rights" for taxpayers. Stephen Ohlemacher in the Associated Press.

The federal workforce needs young blood. Rachel Feintzeig in The Wall Street Journal.

Cars shed pounds in effort to meet fuel-efficiency targets. Sonari Glinton in NPR.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.

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