I think Chuck Todd has this right, and not just because of last night’s poor showing for Republicans among Hispanics. In looking at the daunting issues facing the lame-duck 112th Congress and the incoming 113th, comprehensive immigration reform might be a comparative slam-dunk:
After Tuesday night’s re-election victory for President Barack Obama, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd predicted that one of the president’s agenda items — one promise he never managed to fulfill in his first term — would breeze into law. ”Immigration reform,” he said, will get “80 to 90 votes in the Senate.” Since the election night results showed Republicans unable to attract Latino voters, he said, “Republicans will run, not walk, in trying to support that now.”
The question isn’t whether Republicans will rush to back some version of comprehensive immigration reform. There have always been enough Republican votes in the Senate to pass a reform plan. A Republican President came close to passing a version of it in 2007 but got demagogued by Democrats and halted by conservatives in the Senate who thought it gave too much away. Had Obama chosen to propose immigration reform in 2009, ahead of ObamaCare and particularly if he had allowed Republicans more of a bipartisan role in shaping a stimulus package both sides wanted in one form or another, Obama could easily have passed immigration on his terms three years ago.
Now, immigration reform looks like low-hanging fruit compared to the crises that face our political class now. The lame-duck Congress has to undo sequestration and deal with Taxmageddon. The next Congress has to figure out how to deal with massive deficits and unfunded entitlement liabilities that will crush the American economy within a decade without serious reform. On those issues, there is substantial philosophical and ideological hostility. In comparison, there are only a few issues keeping immigration reform from being passed, nearly none of which are ideological, and most of which are either technical or matters of prioritization.
I’d expect this to get taken up in early 2013 and pass by the summer, with substantial compromise on both sides. It may be the only real bipartisanship we see next year.