The House GOP conference meeting reached no consensus on immigration reform. There is still a loud minority of Republicans adamantly opposed to any comprehensive bill. (Note that if they oppose both citizenship and legalization, they then are in favor either of continued lawlessness or mass deportation.) The president has an uncanny knack for spiking deals in order to blame Republicans. And yet. . . Well, it does seem that the tectonic plates have shifted. Arguably, this is the best possible time to make a deal. Here is why:
1. The president is desperate to salvage his second term. For the first time, an accomplishment may be more valuable than an issue on which to attack the GOP.
2. Every Democrat can read the Senate polls. With nine (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Michigan, North Carolina, Alaska, West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana) or more Democratic states in real jeopardy, this may be the final months of a Democratic Senate majority. If Dems want a deal and don’t want in 2016 to explain how eight years of the Obama presidency failed to produce immigration reform, they need to figure out how to make a deal.
3. Proponents have learned to fight back. Matt Lewis reports that the Mark Zuckerberg high-tech group has put out a memo containing a raft of helpful pro-immigration data and pushing back on the “conservative” anti-immigration groups that aren’t conservative at all. The memo correctly observes,”While some anti-immigrant voices falsely claiming to speak for conservatives may raise concern over the draft principles, they do not represent the majority of the Republican Party: polls have consistently shown that GOP primary voters support fixing our broken immigration system.” It then goes on to cite chapter and verse on the loopy groups that have formed the anti-immigration “brain trust,” detailing the “hateful rhetoric, extreme views, and blatant falsehoods – including ties to white supremacists and an argument that Hispanic families ―lack strong family values – that these organizations spout to argue against critically needed reform.”
4. Reaganite and pro-immigration reform advocate Stephen Moore is now chief economist at Heritage. I suspect the single conservative think tank that went to war against immigration reform will, at the very least, put down its weapons.
5. As more 2016 contenders demonstrate support for immigration reform (the exception being Sen. Ted Cruz), it will become clear that in all likelihood a pro-immigration Republican nominee will be leading the party in a couple years. That gives rhetorical and political support to timid Republicans.
6. The flip from citizenship to legalization allows right-wingers to get on board.
7. House leadership is stronger than at any time since 2010, and they are behind immigration reform.
8. Unlike Obamacare, immigration reform really is popular. When GOP pols look at the numbers, the fear of being run out of town on a rail for voting for immigration reform should diminish.
9. The Chamber of Commerce, the high-tech industry and others are engaged, and they too can run ads and lend support to Republicans in 2014 who take a pro-reform stance.
10. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Yes, the most effective conservative policy wonk is obviously in the driver’s seat. If anyone can lead the House to pass a bill, he can.