Mitch McConnell: Let's face it, immigration reform looks "irresolvable" this year

Significant? Matt Lewis says yes. I’m not so sure.

Sen. Mitch McConnell today referred to immigration as an “irresolvable conflict.”

“I don’t see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such different places,” he said during his weekly press conference. He was referring to the fact that the Senate passed comprehensive reform, while the House is pursuing piecemeal legislation…

It’s fair to note that McConnell and Cornyn are both on the ballot in November, which might impact their decisions. But it’s also likely they have more at stake, in terms of the possibility of retaking the U.S. Senate (as opposed to Speaker John Boehner, who figures to easily maintain a Republican majority over in the House), and that might have something to do with their less-than-optimistic approach to immigration reform in 2014.

Reading between the lines here, it sounds like Republican leadership in the Seante has zero interest in tackling immigration — until at least after the midterm elections.

The bit about the two bodies being in different places is, I think, a sly way of hinting to amnesty fans that a bill would be more likely to pass next year if the same party held both chambers. Which is true but silly as a campaign pitch: If you’re that rare midterm voter for whom immigration reform is paramount, you’re going to try to hand control of the House to the Democrats, not the Senate to Republicans, no matter how futile at this point that effort might be. After all, there’s a fair chance (as Lewis himself argued recently) that a GOP-controlled Senate would come under so much pressure from conservatives to kill reform that nothing would pass before 2016, to the great agony of Republican strategists and business interests. The question is, what does McConnell do if Boehner surprises everyone and produces a House bill that lands on Reid’s desk? McConnell would surely vote no if it happens before the Kentucky primary to protect his right flank. He’d probably vote no even if it happened after the primary, for fear that disgruntled Matt Bevin fans would punish him by staying home or voting Democratic in November. Would he do anything across the wider caucus to try to stop the bill, though, like whipping against it? There are some Republicans, most famously McCain and Graham, who would vote for reform no matter how much pressure McConnell applied. McCain and Graham aren’t enough for Reid to get to 60, though; knowing that some red-state Democrats would vote no to protect themselves from conservatives back home and some true-blue liberals like Bernie Sanders would vote no because the House bill’s not enough of a sellout on amnesty, Reid could need 10 GOPers or more to get to 60. He got 14 for the Gang of Eight bill, but that was in a more hospitable political climate. If McConnell whips against it, he really might be able to stop it. Would he?

Elsewhere on the Hill, amnesty activists are demanding that Obama halt deportations, which is either a pressure tactic against Republicans (“pass a bill and we’ll let them resume without objection”); tough talk designed to obscure the fact that they’re willing to compromise on the GOP’s dopey legalization-without-citizenship idea; or a really dumb miscalculation that, as Richard Trumka argued, some sort of big executive move on deportations would actually improve Obama’s bargaining position with Congress in getting them to pass something. It wouldn’t, of course. What it would do is convince Republicans that O really, truly can’t be trusted to enforce the law as written and the whole process would come crashing down. There are plenty of House GOPers, I’d bet, who’d secretly love for Obama to do that, as it would get them out of a jam in having to make a choice on this issue. They could simply blame O for exploding the deal with yet another executive power grab and walk away. Maybe next year, if the political stars align, they could huddle and pass something so that they’ve got something to show Latino voters in 2016. Obama’s going to get most of the credit from that demographic no matter what happens. Why let him take all of it, they figure?