The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Morning Plum: Where’s that conservative backlash on immigration?

If there is evidence that GOP lawmakers have been hit with a wave of widespread conservative recess rage designed to warn them off of immigration reform, I haven’t seen it. But does that necessarily bode well for reform’s chances?

There are two schools of thought on this. The first holds that if Republican lawmakers don’t catch an earful from opponents, they will conclude the base doesn’t much care if it goes through, and it may happen. The opposite view holds that the reaction from the right doesn’t much matter — if lawmakers don’t get heat from proponents, they can safely let it die (as they secretly want to) this fall.

Today brings news that another House Republican has come out for something approaching comprehensive reform, with caveats. GOP Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada tells the Reno Gazette-Journal that he supports allowing undocumented immigrations to apply for citizenship with strict conditions attached: a 10 year probationary period; learning English; background checks; and proof of a job that shows no dependence on U.S. aid. The key quote:

“At the end of 10 years, if you want to become a citizen, you go to the [federal immigration system] and start the process just like anybody else,” Amodei said in an interview. “I don’t think that’s amnesty.”

Amodei come from a purple district, but one expert tells the Gazette-Journal that this wasn’t an easy position to take and could draw a primary challenge.

Proponents are looking to Republicans like Amodei to see which of the above schools of thought will prove right. They will see him as a sign — along with statements from other GOP Congressmen such as Joe Heck, Aaron Schock, Daniel Webster, Jeff Denham, and Dave Reichert — that at least some House Republicans see a need to seriously grapple with the issue. Amodei’s claim that citizenship with tough conditions is not “amnesty” is notable. The key question remains whether Republicans will try to find a political route from “all legalization equals amnesty” to “bringing undocumenteds out of the shadows with strict conditions and accountability is better than the unacceptable status quo of de facto amnesty.”

Amodei also came out against the Senate bill and called for a piecemeal approach. But his position contains the seeds of consensus. A crucial question remains whether Republicans — as part of a piecemeal approach — will try to pass at least something that deals with the problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. That could get us to conference, which foes of reform are desperate to prevent. (Given his apparent desire to want to address the 11 million, Amodei’s perch on the Judiciary Committee, which will be central, is also noteworthy.)

The odds of anything significant happening in the House remain steep. The core question is whether movement among lawmakers like Amodei mean there will be a real push for action this fall inside the House GOP conference — on the grounds that inaction isn’t an option — or whether they are merely making nice noises designed to make it look like they want action while biding time to let reform quietly die later.

Update: Ace Nevada journalist Jon Ralston informs me that I’m wrong to call Amodei’s district purple; it’s a real GOP district.

* OBAMA OPERATION RAMPS UP DEFENSE OF OBAMACARE: Organizing for Action is out with a new ad on cable touting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, by focusing on a family in red-leaning North Carolina discussing the rebate on their child’s insurance the law has brought:

The ad, which comes as opponents of the law continue to push the line that the law is hiking premiums, is a reminder that the high stakes effort to sell Obamacare will turn heavily on whether folks are persuaded the law is directly working for them.

 * KRISTOL: REPEAL OF OBAMACARE ISN’T IN THE CARDS: Bill Kristol breaks the news gently: Repeal of Obamacare just isn’t going to happen, and Republicans will look far more reasonable if they just push for delays to the law. This is the key nugget:

[T]he case for a year’s delay, at least of Obamacare’s individual mandate and the exchanges, can be made in a practical and relatively nonpolemical way. This is useful if you’re trying to win over undecided citizens and congressmen and senators. What’s more, delay buys time to further make the case against Obamacare as a whole, and to develop in far more detail and depth, and to build more consensus around, the conservative alternatives to Obamacare.

Note the call for a “nonpolemical” tone, as well as for alternatives. As noted yesterday, it now seems clear Republicans recognize their position on Obamacare is untenable, and are grappling with it at the highest levels.

* JOBLESS CLAIMS HIT LOWEST POINT IN SIX YEARS: Steve Benen has it in chart form and brings the larger context.

* HOW WILL MCCONNELL HANDLE DEBT CEILING? Here’s something to watch for, as suggested by Jason Linkins: Mitch McConnell’s Tea Party opponent, businessman Matt Bevin, is already attacking him for agreeing to raise the debt limit in previous years, and will turn this fall’s debt limit battle into an issue. Needless to say, all of this won’t make this fall’s debt limit fight any easier.

 * WHEN WILL MCCONNELL TAKE SIDES IN DEFUND-OBAMACARE CRUSADE? Related to the above: Bevin is also redoubling the pressure on the Senate GOP leader to join with conservatives in their government shutdown/defund Obamacare Kamikazi mission, saying this:

“We hear a lot of empty rhetoric from Mitch McConnell about ending ObamaCare. Stop talking about yanking it out root and branch, and start voting in the U.S. Senate to kill it by defunding it. Stand with Senator Mike Lee!”

At some point McConnell will have to pick a side here, and if, as expected, he comes out against a shutdown, it will only confirm for the Tea Partyers that McConnell’s opposition to Obamacare is suspect and insufficient.

* OBAMA’S SECOND TERM CHALLENGES ARE DAUNTING: Norm Ornstein has a terrific look at how the challenges that a president typically faces in his second term are being exacerbated by the “rampant and intense tribalism” of the opposition, which Ornstein blames on the fact that the “underlying pathology in contemporary American politics has not abated.” We’re probably trapped in stalemate until 2016 unless enough Senate Republicans peel off, bringing pressure on the House to break the logjam.

 * AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, SABOTAGE GOVERNING EDITION: This, from an open letter from Tea Party groups explaining why they believe it’s time to oust GOP Senator Lamar Alexander in a primary, says it all:

Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous. America faces serious challenges and needs policymakers who will defend conservative values, not work with those who are actively undermining those values.

What else?