Can an amnesty bill pass if it becomes Congress's top priority?

I was on a Ricochet show recently pontificating about why Obama’s agenda was getting too crowded for amnesty-backers’ comfort–the CW, in essence–when someone (OK, it was Pat Sajak!) asked whether it wasn’t odd that Washington could only tackle one issue at a time. Yes, it’s odd, I explained–but there comes a moment in the life of every bill when pressure has to be applied to get it over the hump. The issue takes the main stage, everyone’s attention is focused, drums are beaten, editorials are written, chits are cashed, favors traded in a crescendo of artificial urgency. I’d been through the process with welfare reform in ’96, and that’s what happened. I envisioned a similar potential process for amnesty: the first crescendo when the Senate attempts to pass a “comprehensive” bill—and then a second when intense pressure gets focused on Speaker Boehner to let such a bill come to a vote on the House floor, Hastert Rule or no Hastert Rule.

Only after the broadcast was over did it occur to me I might be full of it–that maybe amnesty can’t pass this way. Welfare reform benefitted from its moment of cynosure, after all, because ending welfare and requiring work was wildly popular (as it had always been). It’s not something politicians wanted to be seen standing in the way of. Amnesty hardly has the same sort of support–some polls may show voters favor it, just as polls show they favor Obama’s position on the sequester. But do they care that much? The people who care most–outside of the Hispanic caucus and Republican consultant caucus–are mostly agin’ it. A moment of cynosure is more likely to focus antipathy than support.