On the surface, immigration reform is simply dead for the foreseeable future. House Republican leaders have retreated from their own policy “principles,” which rank-and-file GOP lawmakers chose to either ignore or reject. Barring unexpected Democratic gains in this year’s midterm elections, it would appear reform advocates will have to wait a long time for legislative relief.
Even the discharge-petition idea, which would seem to offer hope, is an unlikely path to success — no Republicans are willing to sign it, at least not yet.
And yet, the nation’s leading Republican lawmaker isn’t done talking about the issue, as if there’s still some chance of success. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) referenced immigration during an interview yesterday with the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In January, he and other GOP leaders outlined a set of principles to reform the immigration system. But shortly afterward, Boehner said he didn’t think he could move an agreement this year, arguing that Republicans didn’t trust Obama enough to implement border security measures.On Monday, he told The Enquirer immigration was a key area of agreement between him and Obama and they talked about it at the White House last week. “He wants to get it done. I want to get it done,” he said. “But he’s going to have to help us in this process.”
It’s difficult to take any of this seriously. If Boehner wants to get immigration reform done, he can bring a bill to the floor and let the House work its will. The last I checked, he’s the Speaker of the House.
But it’s this notion that President Obama is needs to “help” House Republicans that’s especially misguided.
To a very real extent, Obama has already done what he’s supposed to do: he’s helped create an environment conducive to success. The president and his team have cultivated public demand for immigration reform and helped assemble a broad coalition – business leaders, labor, immigrant advocates, the faith community – to work towards a common goal.
But that’s apparently not what Boehner is talking about. Rather, according to the Speaker, immigration reform can’t pass because House Republicans don’t trust the president to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.
What’s Obama supposed to do about this? “I told the president I’ll leave that to him,” Boehner told the Enquirer.
But this is plainly foolish. For one thing, the president hasn’t given the House GOP any reason to be so paranoid. For another, Democrats have already helped Republicans by agreeing to nearly all of their requests.
In one recent instance, a leading Democratic senator suggested he’d delay implementation of immigration reform until 2017 – after Obama’s second term ends – seemingly removing the final Republican objection. (They still said no.)
It’s not up to the White House “to help us in this process”; it’s up to House leaders to help themselves in this process. Immigration reform isn’t waiting for Obama to come up with some magical way to ask Republicans nicely to pass a bill. The issue no longer has anything to do with the president at all.
This is about House Republicans, after having already killed immigration reform in the Bush/Cheney second term, struggling with a popular, bipartisan proposal they simply don’t like. Boehner has an easy solution – bring the Senate compromise to the floor – but he’s choosing not to act. That’s not on Obama; it’s on him.