Uh oh: Chuck Schumer suddenly okay with House GOP's piecemeal approach to immigration reform

The chief Democratic spokesman for comprehensive reform is suddenly mellow about the Republican approach?

Dude, I’m nervous.

“I actually am optimistic that we will get this done,” Schumer said about a bill taking shape in the House during an interview on CNN. “I’ve had a lot of discussions with various members of both parties in the House. Things are moving in the right direction.”…

“We would much prefer the comprehensive bill, but any way the House can get there is all right by us,” Schumer said.

Actually, let me rephrase. Dude, I would be nervous if I thought the House Republican leadership was serious about a piecemeal approach. But they aren’t. When push comes to shove, they’re comprehensivists too:

First, passing tougher enforcement measures before August would take all the momentum away from other more divisive measures, such as giving “Dreamers,” the children brought to the United States illegally, a legal option for staying in the country. While House leaders publicly insist on dealing with the immigration issues separately, they privately are wary of letting their piecemeal approach be taken out of context.

Second, voting on border security before August would hand Democrats a gift-wrapped political cudgel, a case that again paints Republicans as interested only in legislation that cracks down on immigrants. Or, as one senior House leadership aide put it, “all you did was pass bills that on the surface look discriminatory.” A month of ads smacking Republicans for being anti-immigrant was not a happy prospect.

The point of the piecemeal approach in theory is to start with border security, force both chambers of Congress to focus on that as leverage for serious action, and then deal with amnesty once that’s done. Schumer’s betting that House Republicans will go through the motions of a piecemeal approach in order to try to placate people like you and me and then simply agree to stitch their various bills together into one big comprehensive bill in the conference committee with the Senate. That’s a piecemeal means to a comprehensive end. What good is that? No wonder Schumer doesn’t object.

Speaking of the conference committee, though, the big fear among border hawks is that the House will pass something tough on border security and then gut it during the conference, replacing it with something resembling the Gang of Eight’s crapola instead. What’s the advantage to Boehner, Cantor, and the rest of the GOP leadership in doing it that way, though? Do they think conservative media won’t notice that the substance of the House bill has been radically softened? If anything, trying to pull a fast one like that in order to pass a bad bill will be perceived as even more of a stab in the back by conservatives than simply bringing the Gang of Eight bill to the floor and voting on that. If Boehner wants to pass some sort of amnesty while keeping his fingerprints off it as much as possible, his best bet is to very quietly encourage Pelosi to pursue a discharge petition and to very quietly assure amnesty-leaning House Republicans that they’ll suffer no reprisals from the leadership for voting with the Democrats on it. That way he can pretend that the Gang of Eight bill passed against his will and against the will of the House GOP majority while also letting the RNC take credit for “bipartisan passage” by pointing to the 20-30 rogue Republicans who ended up voting with the Democrats. Or maybe that’s what Schumer has in mind: If the conference committee forges a new, terrible bill, Boehner could feign opposition while a Democratic-led discharge petition conveniently forces him to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. A betrayal is coming; the only question is how.

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