This has become a fascinating experiment in how enforcement-heavy a bill needs to be to get conservatives to vote for it *without* Trump’s approval. And I do mean “experiment”: Remember, there’s zero chance that whatever comes out of the House will pass the Senate. It’s a purely academic exercise, designed to give both pro-amnesty Republican centrists and anti-amnesty Republican border hawks an opportunity to pass a bill that each can tout before the midterms. The bill has a DREAM amnesty, which centrists will trumpet to voters back home as proof of their moderation. But it also has a growing basket of goodies for conservatives — the wall and limits on chain migration and an end to the diversity visa lottery and now an expansion of E-Verify, one of the core demands of conservatives.
The right is getting nearly everything it could hope for in this doomed-to-fail-in-the-Senate bill thanks to centrists’ desperation to find a shiny object that’ll distance them from Trump’s immigration policies. They’ll give up nearly anything on enforcement for the chance to vote yes on a bill that contains amnesty for DREAMers.
So what’s the hold up? Why won’t conservatives just vote yes, knowing that the bill will die on Mitch McConnell’s desk? Because: The president is a loose cannon, prone to freakishly rapid changes of mind (especially on immigration). Even though he’s supported a DREAM amnesty before as part of a bargain with Democrats, there’s every chance that if House conservatives vote for a right-wing bill that contains DREAM, the presidential Twitter account will start making disapproving fart noises. Trump has tweeted more than once in the past week that it’s pointless for the House to vote at all on this given the realities in the Senate. He could turn on House Republicans for passing the bill even though it’s basically the same deal he offered Democrats months ago. Look no further than the child-separation saga for how fickle he can be:
He wanted to sign a more extensive order his lawyers said he couldn't sign because it would not be legal, then wanted to sign order to make the issue go away, then had second thoughts, then signed, then had a few more second thoughts. https://t.co/NXkWE0bLeY
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) June 26, 2018
And so we’re left, surreally, in a position where the GOP is afraid to pass a bill that’s politically useful to them and that carries no policy consequences whatsoever just because no one knows when, or if, the loose cannon might go off. The most vulnerable members of the House GOP caucus, the centrists, are desperate to do some virtue-signaling for swing voters before the midterms by passing DREAM — which, again, Trump himself has supported in the past — and yet POTUS won’t say anything to make it easier for them, even though he badly needs them to win this fall to prevent a Democratic takeover of the House. Bananas.
A last-minute effort to salvage a House GOP immigration bill appeared to flounder Tuesday, amid unyielding opposition from the far right.
Desperate to flip conservative votes, centrist House Republicans offered to add a controversial provision requiring the use of E-Verify, which mandates all companies certify the legal status of their workers…
Even Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who tried to help bridge the divide between moderates and conservatives, said he was not sure how he would vote if E-Verify was added. He said he wanted to hear from the president, urging Trump to tweet his thoughts on the bill…
The addition of E-Verify could cause problems for centrist Republicans who hail from agricultural districts whose farmers could be hit hard by the mandate. The latest amendment would also include a new agriculture worker program to try to ease centrists’ concerns. But some moderates, like Rep. David Valadao from California’s Central Valley, aren’t sure they can support the bill if E-Verify is included.
It can’t be stressed enough that the bill has no chance of becoming law. It’s a purely symbolic opportunity to pander to key constituencies. And yet Trump owns the GOP so completely, particularly on the issue of immigration, that even the chairman of the Republican Study Committee is afraid he’ll be judged a RINO if he votes without Trump’s approval for a go-nowhere hawkish bill that happens to include amnesty for DREAMers. It’s one of the purest, most pitiful illustrations you’ll see of how vacuous “conservatism” has become. Walker knows that, to his base, the right thing to do is “whatever Trump wants,” so there’s no amount of concessions centrists could ever make to get him comfortable in voting yes. Paul Ryan could add something to the bill offering to build a moat filled with acid across the southern border and Walker’s reply would be, “Let me check with Trump on that.”
You would think that House conservatives would be a tiny bit more inclined to compromise with centrists in this case not only because of the incredibly low stakes in passing the bill but because they’re mad at Trump right now for continually dunking on their friend Mark Sanford. This is their chance to show the president in a small way that they still retain some meager independence from him, signing on to a DREAM deal with lots of robust enforcement measures that Trump hasn’t even explicitly denounced. But no, they’re probably going to vote no for fear of being Sanford-ed themselves if they vote yes. This party needs to be fumigated.