Reporters who are well connected inside the House GOP caucus are firmly convinced that John Boehner and House Republicans will feel no pressure to allow a vote on any immigration reform that lacks the support of a majority of Republicans — no matter what.
Right now the Senate is debating the gang of eight immigration bill — which has since been amended with the Corker-Hoeven initiative beefing up security — and it will probably pass tomorrow with somewhere between 65 and 70 votes.
But John Boehner continues to insist nothing will get a vote without the support of a majority of House Republicans. And the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports again that House Republicans are unlikely to be moved by pressure from the Senate, and are coalescing around a plan to approach this issue piecemeal, with more regard to what the GOP base wants than anything else:
Republican operatives with relationships in the House believe the path to a conference committee, and possible passage of a final compromise, is for the House to approve smaller border security and enforcement measures that have broad GOP support, and then meld those together with the path to citizenship that Democrats want and which the Senate included in its version of the bill.
An important caveat is that any bill must have the support of a majority of House Republicans. This element is considered crucial by a range of GOP sources, whatever their disagreements on how the immigration debate might play out. The Senate’s “border surge” amendment, proposed by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., could prove instructive for Democrats wondering what might satisfy House Republicans on security.
House Republicans, however, would demand stronger triggers than were included in the Corker-Hoeven amendment to ensure that border security goes hand-in-hand with legalization and citizenship, sources say. “To pass and become law, it has to be something that congressmen would see as an asset to them if they had a tough primary race,” a well-connected Republican consultant said.
If all of this is true, then we’re supposed to believe that a majority of House Republicans will support a stand alone provision containing a path to citizenship, if they have passed extremely onerous border security provisions first — hard triggers that are stronger than the triggers in Corker-Hoeven. I’ll believe that when I see it. It’s unclear to me that there is any level of border security that will get a majority of House Republicans to accept citizenship.
But let’s take the claim at face value for a second. It would leave only two options. Either House Republicans pass something that includes citizenship and hard border triggers, and we head into conference negotiations in which Dems will never accept those hard triggers. If conference produced something short of those hard triggers, then according to Boehner and Drucker’s reporting, a majority of House Republicans couldn’t support it, and there would be no vote on it. And reform would die.
Or, alternatively, the House passes nothing. Since a majority of House Republicans won’t support the Senate bill, according to Boehner and Drucker’s reporting, that means the House leadership wouldn’t allow a vote on that, either. And reform would die.
All of this presupposes that Boehner and the House GOP leadership don’t see any long term benefit for the GOP in letting reform pass if it means they’ll have to suffer too much blowback from the base. It also presupposes that the House GOP leadership will shrug off the intense pressure that will be brought on them from other segments within the party, from the business community, the consultant/strategist establishment, from reform-minded Senators — all of whom will fan across the airwaves and urge Boehner to allow the vote to prevent the GOP from committing demographic suicide.
Reform may not get a vote in the House, and it may die. But that should not obscure the fact that it doesn’t have to. Boehner does have the option of allowing reform to pass with mostly Dems; at the end of the day, there will be a bill that has a majority of the House behind it, even if it isn’t backed by a majority of House Republicans. Which is to say that even if the GOP base succeeds in forcing House Republicans to oppose reform, or to demand triggers that are so onerous that it drives away Democrats, that outcome doesn’t have to kill reform’s prospects.
Reform only dies if Boehner allows it to. Now, Boehner may decide this is the best possible outcome for himself and for Republicans alike. But let’s not pretend this would be anything but a choice on his part.