Three that I’ve noticed, that is. There may be more beneath my radar, and if there are, please e-mail me the links so that I can add them as updates. And no, I’m not including Adam Kinzinger or Aaron Schock in this. If you count them too, then we’ve got five different GOPers suddenly talking this up.
As Trotsky famously said, you may not be interested in amnesty but amnesty is interested in you. First up: Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, who delivered the official party rebuttal to the State of the Union back in January. She’s also the only one of the three to float a concrete timeline.
McMorris Rodgers said she still thinks a deal could be struck before the election. “I believe there is a path that we get a bill on the floor by August,” she said.
A bipartisan plan was passed in the Senate last spring but made no headway in the Republican-controlled House. McMorris Rodgers echoed the concern brought up by many in the chamber, saying she wants to see stronger border security. But she said she’d support a bill that grants legal status to those undocumented immigrants working toward citizenship, allowing them to remain in the country to work and go to school while they wait their turn in the current system.
“We’re going to have to push that this is a legal status, not amnesty,” she said.
A bitterly divisive party battle over immigration sounds like a fine idea three months before the midterms. Note the rhetoric about “legalization, not amnesty,” too. That’s an old saw used by Republicans to try to sell their immigration compromises to the base. Rubio and the Gang of Eight used it too, emphasizing that the path to citizenship under their bill would be long and onerous while quietly avoiding the fact that probationary legalization for illegals under their scheme would be quick and painless. Legalization is the whole ballgame here, of course; once illegals have a foothold to lawfully remain in the U.S., immigration activists will quickly wear down Republican resolve on delaying citizenship. And McMorris-Rodgers knows it.
Next up: Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the House’s (now defunct) version of the Gang of Eight and therefore someone whom Boehner naturally would be chatting with about this process. He’s vaguer on the timeline but confident that things are happening.
“I think we finally have the policy right,” he said in a phone interview. “I think we have figured out a way to secure, to have border and interior security, holding the administration accountable for the enforcement … forcing the administration to enforce the law whether they want to or not. And I think we figured out a way to deal with the folks that are here in a way that is fair — fair, by the way, to those in the legal system … who are doing everything legally, and also deals with the folks that are here in a way that is fair and reasonable. And adheres, strictly adheres, to the rule of law…
“It is as close as we have ever been. It is still a big, big, heavy lift,” he said. “I think we’re going to get there.”…
“We’re going to need a large group of Republicans and Democrats who are willing to stand up and do what is right for our country. What I’m finding is that there are a lot of them out there,” Diaz-Balart told CQ Roll Call.
That last bit’s not true, actually. They need a large group of Democrats but only a small-ish group of a few dozen Republicans to get to 218. It’s purely a matter of Boehner’s own political courage in being willing to bring a bill to the floor and pass it along those lines, which is what made his mockery last week so ironic. He could end this process and pass the Gang of Eight bill in a matter of weeks if he wanted to, but he’s afraid the caucus will toss him out on his ear if he does so he’s holding back. To quote the man himself, “Ooooooh, this is too hard.”
Last up: Texas Republican Joe Barton. Back in January, when Boehner and the leadership released their “principles” on immigration reform, Barton seemed to think the obstacles to a deal were insurmountable. Lo and behold, three months later he’s working on a bill of his own.
Barton, R-Arlington, said his bill would be ready in a month to six weeks.
“If it were to become law it would solve the problem,” Barton said during a recording of Lone Star Politics, which airs Sunday at 8:40 a.m. on KXAS-TV (NBC 5).
Barton said his plan would put a heavy emphasis on border security, which could mollify the most conservative Republicans in Congress.
But he added that “minor children” would get a path to citizenship, and that there would be an effective guest worker program for immigrants with jobs. And Barton would give adults in the country illegally a chance to gain legal status, but not citizenship.
Hard to tell from those bare-bones details whether he’d make legalization contingent upon border security, as border hawks want, or if they’d be on independent tracks, a la the Gang of Eight bill. If it’s the former, the bill is DOA with Democrats and therefore DOA in the House entirely. (There likely aren’t 218 Republican votes for any sort of immigration proposal except maybe a pure enforcement measure.) If it’s the latter, the bill is DOA with Republicans — but maybe not DOA in the House entirely. Again, it’ll come down to whether Boehner is willing to violate the Hastert Rule and pass a comprehensive bill (or series of bills that amount to a comprehensive bill) with a majority of Democrats and minority of Republicans. After last week’s outburst, would you put it past him?