Glass half-full or glass half-empty? Roll Call thinks this is good news for amnesty opponents since, after all, 19 is a paltry fraction of a caucus in which every major figure in the leadership is onboard. Your friendly neighborhood eeyorepundit naturally sees things differently: If Democrats vote unanimously in favor, that’s 199 Dems plus 19 Republicans — i.e. 218, an amnesty majority.
Coincidentally, Boehner and Obama are huddling this morning on topics various and sundry. Dude, I’m nervous. A little.
The tally found 19 backing leadership’s standards, two more who said “possibly yes,” 30 Republicans openly opposing the principles, 22 who refused to say and 25 who were undecided. Three others had nuanced responses. The other 131 did not respond to calls or emails over a two-week period.
Given the number of Republicans who declined to answer or wouldn’t give a binary response, it’s possible Republicans see support for the broadly worded principles as a proxy for supporting an immigration overhaul this year. But with such a seeming dearth of support, the likelihood Republicans could move legislation — in this Congress or the next — seems bleak…
[S]uch a lackluster response from Republicans undermines Boehner’s contention that a majority of his conference supports the immigration principles, which were written in a broad fashion so as to attract the most support possible.
Here’s the list of Republicans for and against. Lots of tea partiers in the latter column, lots of leadership in the former. Roll Call has a point: If they can’t crack two dozen members willing to sign on to a list of “principles,” how many will there be for an actual bill (or series of bills)? Anyway, two X factors here. One, which we’ve discussed before, is Boehner’s willingness to violate the Hastert Rule and pass a legalization bill with mostly Democratic votes. There’s a theory that he’s waiting until the primaries are over to push the bill, to make it easier for Republicans to vote yes. I don’t buy it. It would be such a betrayal, and the timing would be so nakedly political, that I think it’d annoy grassroots conservatives more than if they simply passed something now. He’s probably going to have to do this with a minority of Republicans if he does it at all, regardless of timing, and the only way he’s willing to risk that, I think, is if he’s quietly preparing to retire. Is he?
The other X factor, which gets less attention, is how many Democrats he can count on to vote yes. Remember, Pelosi has said consistently that her caucus will insist on a path to citizenship for newly legalized illegals. Maybe the GOP plan, which would allow citizenship through existing channels without creating any new ones, would suffice for some Democrats, but it may not suffice for all. And it’s hard to believe that Boehner, after insisting that there’d be no special path to citizenship in whatever his team produces, would suddenly eat his words on that and sell out completely in the name of winning Democratic votes. If anything, considering that Republicans are likely to have a majority in both chambers next year and will be free to write their own immigration bill, it’s in the interest of Obama, Pelosi, and House Dems to make some sort of deal with Boehner now. Maybe that means accepting his “a path, but no special path” compromise in the name of obtaining other concessions. Better to get something now than get nothing tomorrow.
Or maybe it means walking away and presenting the GOP with this ultimatum: Pass a bill now that Democrats like or else next year Obama, who’s under pressure from his own base, will expand his executive DREAM amnesty from 2012 to include all illegals. Do it the first way and Boehner and his caucus can claim some (small) amount of credit for getting immigration reform done. Do it the second way and the GOP will be under heavy electoral pressure in 2015 to follow Obama’s lead and pass something codifying his executive order before the next election. They won’t want Democrats touting the fact in 2016 that it was only through the largesse of a Democratic president that illegals finally were able to “come out of the shadows.” They’ll want to play catch up, and that means ratifying (in large part) whatever Obama’s done, likely some sort of suspension of deportations. They’re certainly not going to roll back O’s order while Latino voters watch with interest. So that’s where we’re at right now: Boehner’s willingness to break the Hastert Rule versus Obama’s willingness to undertake his most dramatic executive overreach yet. How lucky do you feel?