This morning, Politico stirred the immigration reform pot with this:
House Republican leadership has no plans to vote on any immigration reform legislation before the end the year.
The House has just 19 days in session before the end of 2013, and there are a number of reasons why immigration reform is stalled this year.
Following the fiscal battles last month, the internal political dynamics are tenuous within the House Republican Conference. A growing chorus of GOP lawmakers and aides are intensely skeptical that any of the party’s preferred piecemeal immigration bills can garner the support 217 Republicans — they would need that if Democrats didn’t lend their votes. Republican leadership doesn’t see anyone coalescing around a single plan, according to sources across GOP leadership. Leadership also says skepticism of President Barack Obama within the House Republican Conference is at a high, and that’s fueled a desire to stay out of a negotiating process with the Senate. Republicans fear getting jammed.
Distrust of Obama is at a high, after the GOP defeat in the ill conceived shutdown fight, so we can’t vote on anything involving immigration reform? This is akin to saying: “Obama didn’t give us what we demanded last time, so we ended up having to shoot ourselves in the foot. This time, Obama is offering us what we need to avoid shooting ourselves in the foot, but we can’t trust him, so let’s go ahead and pull the trigger, anyway.”
Politico is far better sourced with the House GOP leadership than this blog is, so maybe there won’t be any vote this year. However, one House GOP leadership aide, asked to confirm the story, emailed me this:
“We hope to move something before year’s end, but there’s no specific timetable right now.”
Either GOP leaders are leaking that there will be no vote, in order to quiet fears on the right while they decide what to vote on. Or they are letting it be known that they “hope” to have a vote, to defer any political fallout that might come from killing reform, in the full intention of doing just that. Take your pick.
For what it’s worth, Democratic aides and immigration reform advocates don’t believe House GOP leaders have made any decision to kill reform or on whether to hold votes this year. They think leaks are meant to buy maneuvering room while the various proposals — Eric Cantor’s Kids Act, which only gives citizenship to the DREAMers, or the piecemeal legalization proposal being worked on — take shape. This maneuvering room would also allow pro-reform Republicans time to bring other GOP lawmakers who are open to reform but are still steamed by the shutdown defeat — such as Raul Labrador — back into the fold.
The optimistic — or perhaps naively hopeful — endgame being talked about by Dems and reform advocates looks like this.
The premise is that — with business, evangelical, and pro-reform conservative groups set to mount major pressure campaigns — it isn’t as easy for House GOP leaders to avoid voting on reform as many claim it is. House Republicans end up holding piecemeal votes before the end of the year on border security and E-Verify, and on, say, the Kids Act, which could perhaps get a majority of House Republicans. Those pass, but there’s no vote on any politically difficult proposal to legalize the 11 million.
House GOP leaders adamantly declare there will be no conference negotiations under any circumstances, Goddammit! They insist defiantly that Dems have a choice: Either take the Kids Act or leave it. Democrats are cornered! Or maybe not. Meanwhile, pro-reform GOP Senators quietly approach House Republicans who want reform to actually happen, and later, after most of the House GOP primary deadlines have passed, real talks take place, perhaps followed even by a House vote on something approximating comprehensive reform.
Of course, even that optimistic scenario means that the House GOP approach will be shaped largely around not alienating the hard right. As we’ve known all along, we’re not getting reform unless House GOP leaders and mainstream House Republicans are willing, at some point, to anger the folks who won’t ever, ever, ever accept any immigration solution of any kind.