‘It’s just not gonna happen now’

Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
Associated Press

Eight U.S. senators got together earlier this year to form a “gang” and craft comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Their efforts went quite well and their bill passed with relative ease.

Though it got less attention, there was also a bipartisan House “gang” that’s been following a parallel track. In May, the House lawmakers announced they were just about done with a comprehensive bill. And then again in June, they said the House bill was very nearly complete. And then in July, the House members said their bill really, truly was poised to be unveiled.

But then, nothing. For all the periodic assurances about success, the House’s “Gang of Seven” was always standing in the doorway, ready to enter, but unable to take the next step. Greg Sargent reports this morning that the bipartisan group is ready to call it quits.

In a blow to the hopes of passing immigration reform anytime soon, the bipartisan House “gang of seven” plan is probably dead, and almost certainly won’t be introduced this fall as promised, a top Democrat on the “gang” acknowledges.

“It doesn’t appear that we’re going to move forward with the group of seven,” Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a key player on immigration as a member of the gang, said in an interview with me. “The process is stalled. I don’t believe we’re going to produce a bill anytime soon.”

What seems to be the trouble? Gutierrez told Greg that the Republicans in the “gang” haven’t received support from House GOP leaders, and just can’t bring themselves to endorse the bipartisan proposal. “It’s just not gonna happen now,” the congressman added.

The next question, of course, is what might happen next. We are, after all, talking about a popular, bipartisan effort that secures the border, shrinks the deficit, and boosts economy growth. It enjoys the support of the White House, business leaders, religious leaders, GOP strategists, leaders from the Latino community, and a clear majority of the country.

Given this, is the legislation simply going to wither on the vine?

There’s not much the Senate can do; it already passed a good bill. There’s not much the White House can do; President Obama is standing by, eager to sign reform into law.

The future of reform rests squarely on the shoulders of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House GOP leadership. They could, in theory, simply bring the Senate bill to the floor, let the House vote on it, and accept the consequences. That won’t happen, though, because rank-and-file House Republicans won’t let Boehner pursue this.

There’s also talk that the House GOP might break up comprehensive reform into pieces and try to pass them one at a time. That’s not likely to work, either – not only does the far-right fear the piecemeal approach leading to a compromise with the Senate, but the whole point of making this “comprehensive” is to include provisions intended to generate buy-in from a variety of constituencies on one legislative package.

I continue to push the idea of a discharge petition, which I hope will get a second look now that the “gang” option appears to be collapsing.

Regardless, Gutierrez’s comments today suggest the odds of success on immigration reform are getting worse. If it fails, the consequences for Republicans are unpredictable, but may very well be severe.

'It's just not gonna happen now'