News orgs continue to claim today that John Boehner “shelved” or “put the brakes” on immigration reform when he claimed it will be “difficult” to make it happen because many Republicans “distrust” Obama. Boehner was merely describing why it will be hard to get  it done — but the narrative that Boehner put it on ice is now unalterable.

Still, it’s important to understand what Boehner really meant by this — it’s crucial to what’s really going on in this debate — and a new exchange between Chuck Schumer and Boehner’s office helps shed some light on it.

On Meet the Press, Schumer called Boehner’s bluff with this simple suggestion: “There’s a simple solution: Let’s enact the law this year but simply not let it actually start until 2017, after President Obama’s term is over.” To which a Boehner spokesman replied: “The suggestion is entirely impractical, since it would totally eliminate the President’s incentive to enforce immigration law for the remainder of his term.”

In other words, Obama’s untrustworthiness on immigration is a given. What this confirms, in a roundabout way, is that continued complaints about “distrust” in the president are entirely about what is going on among Republicans on this issue.

There is a simple question that will determine whether we get something approaching real reform. Can enough House Republicans find a way to embrace some form of legal status for the 11 million, packaged with border security triggers, under conditions that accomplish the following: 1) Allow for a policy solution to the 11 million that is actually workable; 2) Allow for a policy solution to the 11 million that Dems can accept and can be signed into law by Obama.

When Republicans cite distrust of Obama on immigration, what they are really saying is this: We are not sure there is any set of workable border security triggers, as conditions for legalization, that is iron-clad enough to enable us to persuade the base that we’ve developed an adequate safeguard against Obama’s secret desire to throw open the borders — and by extension, to accept legalization.

We don’t know whether Republicans will end up coalescing behind a legalization proposal or not. But the crucial point is that for now, the answer to this question cannot, by definition, have anything to do with anything Obama says or does.  It is an unalterable premise that Obama can’t be trusted. Nothing can change this. Therefore, the only way we’re getting reform is if Republicans develop a set of border security triggers enabling them to get to Yes on legalization in spite of Obama’s secret desire to shaft the GOP and the country.

The only way this is going to happen is if Republicans come up with a package that mainstream House conservatives feel comfortable enough supporting while also creating a real policy path to some form of legal status for the 11 million. (The far right will oppose anything that grants legal status.) It is only at this point that Obama and Dems enter the picture. If Republicans do put together an actual policy proposal for the 11 million — one, again, that is workable — can Dems accept it? At that point, Dems will have some tough choices to make.

But we cannot know whether we will even get to that point until Republicans decide what sort of legalization proposal they can accept, and on what conditions. And this decision will be made entirely independently of anything Obama says or does. As Boehner’s response to Chuck Schumer’s bluff-calling neatly reveals.


Facing a timeline that leaves no room for trial and error, some party leaders were advocating a debt-ceiling solution that would wrap several popular, must-pass items around a provision to extend the federal government’s borrowing authority beyond the November midterm elections. That approach has drawn support from some surprising quarters, but several senior GOP advisers made it clear over the weekend that such a proposal would require a bloc of Democratic votes, because about 30 Republicans oppose raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

You know what would get Democratic support for a debt limit hike? Stop the extortion and make it clean.

* POWERFUL INTERESTS TRYING TO BLOCK MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The New York Times has a useful piece of reporting on Employment Policies Institute and the powerful restaurant industry interests that are behind the production of “research” finding that a minimum wage hike will destroy jobs. Check this out:

The reports by the Employment Policies Institute are a critical element in the lobbying campaign against the increase in the minimum wage, as restaurant industry groups, in their own statements and news releases, often cite the institute’s reports, creating the Washington echo chamber effect that is so coveted by industry lobbyists. “Once you have the study, you can point it to it to prove your case — even if you paid to get it written,” said one lobbyist, who asked not to be named because his clients rely on him to use this technique.

Well, thanks for the candor! The article does note that labor and liberal groups are producing research on the other side, but also clarifies that the research funded by restaurant chains has a greater impact on the debate.

* TEA PARTY AND GOP ESTABLISHMENT AT WAR: Jeremy Peters has a solid piece of reporting detailing the efforts by the GOP-aligned business community to prevent crazy Tea Party candidates from imperiling their chances of winning in general elections. This is key:

One of the biggest challenges for Republican leaders in the 2014 midterm elections will be how to hang on to the Tea Party support that has been so instrumental to the party’s growth, while winning back voters alienated by hard-right candidates.

And, additionally, the challenge will also be to win back conservative voters to support establishment general election candidates after bruising primaries.

* GOP CERTAINTY ABOUT OBAMACARE’S COLLAPSE CONTINUES: The Hill has the latest in an emerging journalistic genre: Republicans are really, really certain that Obamacare’s collapse can only shower them with nonstop political riches right through Election Day.

I continue to wonder: Do Republicans have a Plan B here?

* ANOTHER STAB AT SENATE REFORM? With Senate dysfunction continuing, liberals are pushing the Senate Dem leadership to take another stab at filibuster reform, and it seems to be an outside possibility:

Reid is reluctant to provoke another confrontation with Republican colleagues over the rules but he’s frustrated with the continued obstruction and needs the help of outside groups to turn out voters in the midterm elections.

“Reid is not afraid to go further and considers reform this year a real possibility,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. 

I’m skeptical, but it’s probably good to have the idea out there.

* REPUBLICANS WRITE OFF THE LONG TERM UNEMPLOYED: Paul Krugman gets to the heart of why Republicans have killed the renewal of unemployment insurance yet again. It is rooted in an ideological indifference to economic evidence — in a conviction that the long term unemployed must simply not be trying hard enough to find work:

Being unemployed is always presented as a choice, as something that only happens to losers who don’t really want to work. Indeed, one often gets the sense that contempt for the unemployed comes first, that the supposed justifications for tough policies are after-the-fact rationalizations. The result is that millions of Americans have in effect been written off — rejected by potential employers, abandoned by politicians whose fuzzy-mindedness is matched only by the hardness of their hearts.

If there is any good news here, it’s that many Republicans understood that they had to couch their opposition to an extension as about fiscal responsibility, suggesting that the political ground has shifted against the Hammock Theory of Poverty.

* AND HEALTH LAW FREES PEOPLE FROM “JOB LOCK”: A good addition to the debate over the CBO report: Sandhya Somashekhar has an interesting look at real people who have discovered that the health law has freed them from having to remain tied to a job they hated, giving them new peace of mind. Many Republicans are distorting the report’s finding as evidence the law inflicts job loss on innocent victims, because getting into an argument over whether it’s good that the law increases economic flexibility — versus creating dependency — is tougher political turf for them.

What else?