Have Republicans in the House decided not to self-destruct a second time in a month? At least according to Politico, the answer is yes. Rather than open another painful split on immigration reform, the House will close out the 2013 session without any votes on the issue:
House Republican leadership has no plans to vote on any immigration reform legislation before the end the year.
The House has just 19 days in session before the end of 2013, and there are a number of reasons why immigration reform is stalled this year.
Following the fiscal battles last month, the internal political dynamics are tenuous within the House Republican Conference. A growing chorus of GOP lawmakers and aides are intensely skeptical that any of the party’s preferred piecemeal immigration bills can garner the support 217 Republicans — they would need that if Democrats didn’t lend their votes. Republican leadership doesn’t see anyone coalescing around a single plan, according to sources across GOP leadership. Leadership also says skepticism of President Barack Obama within the House Republican Conference is at a high, and that’s fueled a desire to stay out of a negotiating process with the Senate. Republicans fear getting jammed. …
“After Obama poisoned the well in the fiscal showdown and [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi now is actively trying to use immigration as a political weapon, the chances for substantive reforms, unfortunately, seem all but gone,” said one GOP operative involved in the conservative pro-immigration movement.
Well, that’ll be news to Darrell Issa, but it also makes some sense. First, Republican nerves are still raw from the shutdown fight that split the House and Senate caucuses, and split both caucuses internally as well. The last thing Republicans need is another civil war immediately on the heels of the last one, which has quieted down but hasn’t entirely evaporated.
Postponing the effort may end up killing it altogether. They can push it into 2014 after tempers have cooled, but that’s getting close to the midterm elections. Conservatives might be able to convince the rest of the caucus that it will better to wait to see if the GOP can win control of the Senate in order to get a better deal on border security for reforms in 2015, avoiding another show of disunity that President Obama can exploit to save Democratic control in the upper chamber. If nothing else, that might have the Senate offer more concessions as a way to get the House to move. If the House does nothing through 2014, then the Senate bill will expire and the effort will have to begin again from scratch.
An even better argument for waiting it out is the ObamaCare debacle. Obama wants to distract from the destruction that his signature program is wreaking on Americans and their insurance by “pivoting” to immigration. (As an aside — does anyone remember the 37th “pivot” to jobs and the economy? Good times, good times.) Republicans should spend this time debating an eventual replacement for ObamaCare to address the real financial emergency Obama’s program is creating for Americans, one that robustly addresses the cost spiral of health care with market-based reforms that work rather than government mandates that make the situation exponentially worse. The chances of substantive reforms in this policy area are very good — and the electorate will be very receptive to them by the time they’ve paid through the nose for Obama’s idea of reform all year long.
This is the perfect opportunity to show that the GOP can govern seriously and solve the problems created by an incompetent Democratic administration. Let’s hope Republicans grasp it.