There were some theatrics on Wednesday from liberal immigration reform advocates, claiming the speaker of the House was now refusing to go to conference with the Senate on immigration reform. Immigration reform dead! Really? No.
In fact, this morning at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Headquarters, a collection of conservatives — Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Jay Timmons, president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers; Bishop John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City; and Greg Zoeller, the attorney general of Indiana (R) — will be holding a press conference to push for further action on immigration reform.
As for Speaker John Boehner, those familiar with his thinking tell Right Turn that he still supports taking up discrete immigration issues (border security, internal enforcement, visas, undocumented etc.) for debate and passage. This has been his position for some time. Whether the Senate will be willing to break up its bill into separate legislative chunks (passed in succession) is an open question, but Boehner is not going to engage on one massive bill. As for the prospects of those separate bills getting through this year, House leadership is realistic that months have now been chewed up on the shutdown and Obamacare.
Boehner and other Republicans nevertheless maintain that whether taken up in December or after the first of the year, something will come out of the House. Politico quoted Boehner yesterday as saying, “I’ve made it clear since the day after the election that it’s time to get this done.” His spokesman clarified, according to the report, that he was referring to his “taking up reform with a collection of bills, not a sweeping comprehensive bill like the Senate passed in June.”
From my vantage point, there really isn’t time in the next month and a half to get immigration done. But immigration reform opponents are mistaken if they think the issue is dead as of December 31. Immigration reform is still doable, albeit not in as sweeping a fashion as the Senate bill attempted.
In fact, I would argue that with the president on the ropes and anxious for something other than scandal, defeat and chaos, he and the Democrats might be willing to deal in ways they weren’t earlier this year. A pro-immigration reform GOP senator with whom I spoke a couple of weeks ago said he was more optimistic lately that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the president could deal with Republicans on something other than, as he put it, a “special path to citizenship.” (“Special” here is the variable.) I would add that with the bruising taken by the far-right in the shutdown and Nov. elections and the re-engagement of Main Street Republicans (evidence by today’s press conference), the House may have more votes for immigration reform than before the disastrous shutdown.
In any event, immigration reform didn’t die yesterday. It continues to limp along just has it has for the last few months.