There are two ways of looking at the immigration plan House GOP leaders floated Thursday: 1) It might just be the sweet spot in a complex debate that could lead to a deal. 2) The combined outcry from the right and left will kill it.
The early read: It’s looking more like #1…
The most contentious part of the immigration debate is the question of whether most undocumented immigrants should be allowed a special path to citizenship. The House GOP plan says no. The plan that passed the Senate says yes. The initial plan being forwarded by House Republican leadership endorses legal status but not a path to citizenship — except for those who were brought into the country illegally as children.
Right now, that appears a middle ground worthy of at least a closer look, in the eyes of many major players invested in the issue.
Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, said in a conference call with reporters that members of the coalition that is pushing for an immigration overhaul should be willing to consider Mr. Boehner’s approach.
“If your standard is citizenship for everyone immediately or no immigration reform at all, you are going to get no immigration reform at all,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “People are going to have to stand in the middle and leave the comfort of their caucus.”…
Despite the differences, immigration advocates expressed some optimism that they could persuade House Republicans to soften or abandon some of their approaches. A senior White House official said Mr. Obama was eager to see what the Republicans would offer…
“What’s important is this debate is starting,” the official said.
Tech companies and groups rallied behind a set of immigration reform principles released by House Republican leaders Thursday…
“If America is going to remain the global leader of the innovation economy, we need a more robust high-skilled pipeline that will feed our growing industries with the best talent available to build jobs in the U.S.,” Microsoft Vice President of Government Affairs Fred Humphries said in a statement, calling the GOP principles “an important step forward.”…
The Computer and Communications Industry Association — which includes Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo — said the principles indicate that Congress could pass a bill this year…
Dean Garfield, CEO of the Information Industry Technology Council, applauded the principles and called on Congress to act this year “for one simple reason: Immigration is innovation.”
Immigration reform is a hugely consequential microcosm of the national political debate. Responsible Republicans realize they have an obligation to propose rather than just oppose. But the increasingly isolated conservative populist base is pre-occupied with resisting cultural change and while 82 per cent of Tea Partiers see illegal immigration as a serious problem that doesn’t lead logically to support for reality-based proposals that seek to solve the problem. No wonder so many politicians see more upside in demagogue-ing the issue than dealing with it.
What’s changed is that Boehner and other members of the Republican leadership now recognize that they – and the country – cannot be held hostage by the impractical ideological fervor of 50 or so House radicals and their enablers among the fundraising racket activist class.
The choice is between governing and grandstanding, leaving a constructive legacy that will lead to long-term political gains or giving in to the fetid heat of those folks who would ruin if they cannot rule.
If the GOP is going to do well in the midterms anyway, the party can take the hit from the (potentially) decreased passion among the base and not have it manifest in any significant way.
(1) At some point, Republicans will no longer be able to build national political coalitions without reliably attracting more than 40 percent of the Latino vote. This is demographic destiny. The date of this eschaton can be delayed but not put off…
(3) Every cycle that passes by without immigration reform is a cycle that is one more removed from the day when Republicans will begin to rebuild a new political coalition that includes more Latinos.
(4) Completely aside from the merits of immigration reform, Democrats will wield the failure to pass immigration reform as a meat cleaver, and effectively so, to bash the GOP’s intentions not only to Latinos but also to young voters and upscale professionals who otherwise admire Republican principles.
The ultimate goal [among opponents], it seems, isn’t to improve the policy, but to use any reasonable-sounding excuse available to postpone or kill it. At the end of the day, you may believe immigration reform is good or bad on the merits — and that’s okay. There are legitimate arguments on both sides. But the notion that the timing just isn’t right — that you’d be for it next year — or that Boehner and his allies have purely evil motives and are solely trying to do the bidding of the Chamber of Commerce — is sophistry.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Republicans do so well in the midterm elections that they conclude they don’t have any problems and that they can just keep on doing what they’ve been doing. That, of course, would likely sow the seeds for yet another General Election loss — where the turnout is dramatically different.
If you subscribe to the theory that there are fundamental demographic challenges the GOP must sooner or later address, then it’s better not to postpone this. There really is no good time to eat your vegetables.
[T]he threat of executive action could also be used as encouragement to pass a bill. By dropping hints of a bold executive move, Republican reformers could argue that Congress needs to pass an immigration bill that explicitly ties the president’s hands before he can bypass lawmakers. Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the bipartisan Senate immigration bill, made this very case to a Florida radio host last year in defending his work on the issue.
There are political risks for Republicans, too, if Obama goes it alone. Obama rallied Latino voters in 2012 by halting deportations for young immigrants and forced Mitt Romney into a difficult position when he was grilled on whether he’d let DREAMers granted such protections stay in the U.S. if he were elected president. If the House kicks the issue into the next election and Obama expands protections further, it could have a similar effect and provoke a damaging debate in the Republican presidential primaries.
For now, the conventional wisdom is that Obama’s best bet for facilitating a deal is to stay quiet and let Congress work things out on its own. The White House understands this dynamic, which likely explains why there was almost no mention of immigration in the president’s State of the Union speech. Obama has made it clear he’ll be patient as long as there’s movement towards a deal – so long as the GOP understands that patience isn’t unlimited.
That said, it is hard to imagine Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) moving forward after yesterday’s closed-door showdown. According to estimates from those who were in the room–both in favor of moving forward and against–the dozens of GOP lawmakers who spoke were at least 80-20 against bringing a bill to the floor this year.
There is a palpable sense of disappointment among those interested in moving forward. In private conversations, the word that is used is that the meeting was “predictable.” The same people in the GOP conference who kept Boehner from moving on a bill in 2013 are just as opposed in 2014…
“I don’t understand why House leadership would bring this issue up now,” Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina (R) tells me, adding, “After yesterday, that feeling is strengthened based on the overwhelming pushback from Conference meeting attendees.”