It’s pretty easy to assume that fierce Republican opposition will doom comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, for much of the summer, House GOP extremism on the issue has reinforced fears that the odds are poor.
But there’s been some gradual movement of late, and it’s given new hope to reform proponents.
Members of Congress have been on recess for only a few days, but it already seems the time away from Washington means more support for a pathway to citizenship among some Republicans.
In the past few days, two Republican members of the House of Representatives — Daniel Webster in Florida, Aaron Schock in Illinois — have expressed preliminary support for a way to legalize undocumented immigrants and allow them to eventually earn full citizenship. Even the House GOP whip, Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), announced support for legal status, although he stopped just short of supporting full citizenship.
After this ABC News report ran, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash,) also endorsed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a congressional leader on immigration policy, said yesterday there are “40 to 50 Republicans” in the House who are ready to support a comprehensive bill, even if they’re reluctant to say so publicly at this point.
If even half of them were willing to sign a discharge petition – or pull a “Reese Witherspoon” – a bipartisan reform bill could reach the House floor for a vote, at which point things would get awfully interesting.
This isn’t to say success appears likely, but rather, that reform still has a pulse – which is more than we could have said in June. Greg Sargent, after conceding that the odds still favor far-right opponents, noted yesterday, “[T]he easy conventional wisdom about what’s happening now — which holds that the conservative base controls the outcome completely, that the death of reform is preordained, and that House Republicans are only looking for a way to kill reform blamelessly — is overly simplistic and is increasingly looking like it’s just wrong.”
And what about the prospects of using the August recess to push the debate in one direction or the other?
Let’s not forget this Byron York piece we discussed briefly yesterday.
“There’s definitely more interest right now in Obamacare than immigration, partly because folks believe immigration has been stopped or slowed,” says conservative radio host Bill Bennett of the calls he receives from listeners. “The passion against Obamacare never subsides.” […]
If August goes quietly on the immigration front, some Republican lawmakers may return to Washington with the sense that voters back home don’t really mind that immigration reform goes forward. And then it will. If, on the other hand, lawmakers hear expressions of serious opposition at town meetings, their conclusion will be just the opposite. And reform will likely go down to defeat.
So Democrats don’t really mind if Republicans use up all their grass-roots energy railing about Obamacare. It’s already the law. What would be a problem for Democrats, and for some pro-reform Republicans, is if the GOP grassroots concentrated its fire on immigration reform. That could well mean the end of President Obama’s top legislative priority for his second term.
Ed Kilgore’s question rings true: “[W]hat if the sudden conservative activist obsession with ‘defunding Obamacare’ as a demand being made of Republican Members of Congress convinces those self-same Members that allowing an immigration bill to come to a vote in the House isn’t the career-ender it looked like a few weeks ago?”