Scarborough: The worst thing the GOP could do before the midterms is pass immigration reform

Via John Nolte, a rare moment of hope for border hawks that the coming sellout might not happen after all. If even Morning Joe, who hosts the establishment’s favorite political chat show, thinks it’s a bad idea to move on amnesty now, maybe even the moderates in the GOP caucus will think twice. The argument for standing pat is compelling: Turnout among casual voters is always much lower during the midterms than it is during presidential election years. As such, the supposedly inevitable electoral blowback from Latinos (who’ve traditionally turned out at low rates) over congressional paralysis on immigration is more likely to strike in 2016. That gives Republicans two more years to worry about amnesty. It’s conservatives whom the party needs to turn out in November and there’s arguably no surer way of alienating those voters than with a big immigration sellout now. Why not put the whole thing off until next year, when Republicans will (probably) control the Senate and can write a tougher bill — theoretically — than they could now with Harry Reid?

And yet, per the Journal, it sounds like they’re ready to do it anyway:

House leaders hope to bring legislation to the floor as early as April, the people close to the process said, after the deadline has passed in many states for challengers to file paperwork needed to run for Congress. Republican leaders hope that would diminish chances that a lawmaker’s support for immigration bills winds up sparking a primary-election fight…

Legislation being drafted would reject a “special path” to citizenship for illegal immigrants, which was included in the Senate bill, the people familiar with the process said. But it would grant legal status for all illegal immigrants who meet qualifications, allowing them to work and travel without fear of deportation.

The legislation under development also would allow this group to tap into existing paths, available to any newcomer, to gain permanent legal residence, also known as a green card. Once someone has a green card, they are eligible to apply for citizenship.

At the same time, the legislation would make substantial changes to immigration law to clear impediments from those existing paths. Without those changes, illegal immigrants would face big backlogs and requirements that they return to their home countries before applying for a green card.

Don’t put too much stock in the timeline there. Byron York interviewed a bunch of House Republican leaders to see if it’s true that the leadership might try to pull a fast one after the primaries. The consensus seems to be no, for the simple reason that this issue is already on conservatives’ radar. If the big fear is that the base will stay home in November in protest of an immigration deal, then waiting a few months to do it won’t achieve anything. On the contrary, Boehner et al. should prefer to do it as quickly as possible in hopes that memories will fade by election day. If you believe GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, the Speaker himself seems to agree, saying, “There’s no good time to do it, so let’s just get it done now.” More interesting to me are the details above about the leadership rejecting a “special” path to citizenship while at the same time doing everything they can to put newly legalized illegals on an accelerated path to citizenship through “normal” channels. If you’re going to make illegals eligible (at some point in the future) for green cards and you’re going to streamline the process so that they don’t face the backlogs that they do now, why not go ahead and create a special citizenship path? Sounds like the difference between the two is largely semantic, a way to reassure conservatives that the party hasn’t given illegals any breaks even while they’re busy revamping the immigration system to fast-track them.

Here’s the new editorial from NRO echoing Scarborough’s (and Bill Kristol’s) call for the House GOP to do nothing on immigration. I don’t think that’ll happen. They’ll pass a border security bill, I assume, and some sort of smaller concession to Latino voters like the Kids’ Act just to make sure it’s not too easy for Democrats to demagogue them before November. Remember, though: All of these calculations will change instantly when the new Congress is seated in January. There’s no way that the party will risk the next presidential election without some sort of wider amnesty. The only mystery is whether there’ll be a single candidate in the Republican field in 2016 who opposes the idea. Cruz might, to woo tea partiers. But he’ll be the only one.