It’s possible Obama won’t act, but it’s very hard to imagine it. The legality of executive action is convoluted, but some legal experts believe he has more leeway than the White House has publicly acknowledged. It’s also unclear what action might look like — would deportation be deferred for just parents of the DREAMers? Relatives of U.S. citizens? Working folks who are assets to communities? – but some kind of action seems borderline inevitable.

And any Obama action will only embolden the “tyranny” screaming hard-liners in the House GOP caucus, making reform harder still in the lame duck session and even beyond into 2015. What’s more, the GOP presidential primary starts up next year, and Ted Cruz (who denounced even the House GOP principles on reform as “amnesty”) may demagogue the heck out of the issue to appeal to a far right chunk of primary voters, making it harder for more sensible GOP candidates (and Congressional Republicans alike) to embrace reform. On top of that, the current Senate bill will expire, so we’d need the Senate to act again, also a heavy lift.

Is it possible Republicans will be able to pass reform next year? Perhaps, but it will likely be significantly harder than it is now.