As of a couple of weeks ago, comprehensive immigration reform faced long odds, but the bipartisan effort still had a pulse. The legislation, pending in the House after clearing the Senate in the early summer, was picking up GOP supporters, and a “business-conservative alliance” was moving forward with a “lobbying blitz” in the lower chamber.
President Obama openly mocked the very idea of failure: “Obviously, just because something is smart and fair and good for the economy and fiscally responsible and supported by business and labor and the evangelical community and many Democrats and many Republicans – that does not mean that it will actually get done. This is Washington after all.”
Indeed, it is. As Rachel noted on Friday night’s show, late on Friday afternoon the House GOP leadership confirmed that the chamber wouldn’t even try to work on the bill for the rest of the year.
The third-ranking House Republican told immigration advocates that lawmakers won’t vote this year on the issue, confirming what many had long assumed.California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip, said in a meeting with immigration proponents that there weren’t enough days left for the House to act and he was committed to addressing overhaul of the nation’s immigration system next year. The congressman’s office confirmed what he said.
McCarthy comments confirmed what Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said a few days prior – the House could tackle immigration reform before the end of the year, but is choosing not to.
It’s important to note that the “not enough time” defense is wholly without merit. House Republicans have had four months to work on immigration since the Senate easily approved its bipartisan bill, but they sat on their hands, working instead on their government shutdown and debt-ceiling threats. Even now, if House GOP leaders chose to make this issue a priority, there’s ample time to bring a bill to the floor.
But therein lies the point: this is not an issue of a problematic calendar; it’s an issue of political will. House Republicans don’t want to approve a bipartisan reform package, so they won’t. It’s that simple.
McCarthy and others have said the issue may yet return in 2014, but it seems extremely unlikely. If GOP lawmakers consider this a tough vote, the odds of them choosing to cast it during an election year are poor. Besides, it’s not as if far-right House members are suddenly going to become any more receptive towards the bill in the new year than they are now.
As a policy matter, the Republican decision to kill the legislation once again is a bitter disappointment for millions, but as a political matter, GOP leaders need to understand the damage they’re inflicting on themselves – immigration-reform advocates and their allies know better than to believe silly excuses, and will certainly hold the House majority responsible for immigration’s failure. It’s the sort of thing that’ll drive quite a few votes in the 2014 midterms.
What’s more, as we discussed a month ago, let’s also not forget that House Republicans still don’t have a credible excuse to explain why they’re so vehemently against a popular, bipartisan bill that lowers the deficit and boosts the economy, and which enjoys the support of the American mainstream, business leaders, religious leaders, GOP strategists, and leaders from the Latino community.
And on a related note, we’re also still looking at a legislative landscape in which House Republicans have a three-year record of one government shutdown, two debt-ceiling crises, and literally zero major legislative accomplishments. Immigration reform could have been a legacy issue for House Speaker John Boehner and his team, but his party’s far-right ideology has apparently become the only factor that matters.