House Republicans made good on their past pledges on Wednesday, refusing to take up the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform legislation and pledging instead to "continue their work on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fixing what has long been a broken system."
So, where do we go from here? Is immigration reform dead? Will it live on in some form? And, if so, how? Here's a quick summary of potential scenarios:
1. The House passes multiple bills, including legislation addressing how undocumented immigrants can eventually earn green cards or U.S. citizenship.
This seems unlikely. The House is currently keeping with a strategy laid out by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), proceeding with a piecemeal approach to immigration that will result in the consideration of several bills that address individual aspects of the issue.
But, there are no current plans to mark up a bill that addresses the fate of the 11 million undocumented workers in the country at the moment, according to aides.
How many total bills addressing individual elements of the immigration issue might be considered? Few people have offered a specific number, but Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) suggested at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas last week that there could be "seven or eight bills."
2. The House passes multiple bills, but doesn't address what to do with undocumented immigrants.
Tackling the so-called "pathway to citizenship" could prove so difficult in the sharply divided House that leaders opt not to hold votes on any such legislation on it. Avoiding the issue entirely might also help Boehner avoid violating the GOP rule that any bill considered in the House must be supported by a majority of Republicans.
Any legislation on citizenship likely would come only after the House has voted on strict new border security requirements that require several "triggers" be met before any person could begin applying for permanent status or U.S. citizenship.
Democrats argue that such triggers would delay the pathway to permanent status or citizenship for too long, making the process unattainable for many. And Democrats say that any final immigration legislation must address citizenship.
"Without a path to citizenship, there is not going to be a bill. There can't be a bill," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this week. "And to go to conference with various pieces, without a path to citizenship, is a path to a cul-de-sac, to no immigration bill."
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador (R) prefers to describe it as a "pathway to legal status" and said that such a plan is still achievable if Congress keeps focused primarily on border security.
“I think I can sell a good outcome for the 11 million if we have the hard triggers and what we need on the enforcement side," he told reporters this week.
3. The House tries, but ultimately can't pass anything.
A group of House conservatives -- or what "The Fix’s complete guide to understanding House Republicans" describes as the "No!" Caucus -- is hoping this is what transpires. Their opinions are perhaps best captured in the op-ed written this week by conservative scribes Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry:
There’s no rush to act on immigration. The Democrats didn’t do anything when they controlled all of the elected branches in 2009 and 2010. The Gang of Eight tells us constantly that we have a de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants now. Fine. What’s the urgent need to act immediately, then?
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and other like-minded conservatives met Monday evening to discuss how they should band together to ensure that immigration legislation is defeated in the House. They generally believe that immigration legislation is bad for Republicans, because it would only lead to the legalization of eventual Democratic voters.
Other Republicans believe that waiting until after the 2014 congressional elections might give Republicans a stronger negotiating stance once they've won more seats in the House and possibly retake control of a narrowly-divided Senate.
Despite that talk, there's been no serious attempt yet to completely scuttle debate on immigration. And it's still too early in the process to try, especially because the vast majority of GOP lawmakers who emerged from Wednesday's closed-door meeting on immigration expressed an eagerness to work on the issue.
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