In return for making life easier on the debt ceiling for the House leadership, Speaker Boehner should make his own concession: He should announce that he will not bring any immigration legislation to the floor this session. If there’s one thing that could blow up GOP chances for a good 2014, it would be an explosive debate over immigration in the House. The only sure way to avoid such a debate is not to let anything onto the floor in the first place. Once even an innocuous-sounding measure gets passed, then the pressure to go to conference with the loathed Senate bill will be great. And whatever ultimately were to happen, activists would spend months worrying about and agitating against a betrayal by the leadership, business interests would spend months urging such a betrayal, and Republicans would be consumed by infighting and recriminations on an issue that does them no short-term political good. Bringing immigration to the floor insures a circular GOP firing squad, instead of a nicely lined-up one shooting together and in unison at Obamacare and other horrors of big government liberalism. Since there really is no need to act this year on immigration, don’t. Don’t even try.
In sum: With respect to the must-pass debt ceiling legislation, the House conservatives should let it pass. With respect to immigration reform, which isn’t must-pass, leadership should let it die. The guiding principle should be do no harm. This year, doing no harm requires both conservative activists and the GOP establishment to sacrifice something. So they should make a deal: No default in return for no amnesty. Such a deal should mean no GOP tears this November.