Looking back at the debate over immigration reform over the last year or so, it’s hard not to think of “Peanuts.”
You’ve seen the bit: Lucy holds the football and tells Charlie Brown that this time she’ll let him kick it. He’s skeptical – Lucy’s fooled him so many times before – but his optimism always gets the best of him. So, Charlie runs, excited by the prospect of long-sought success, only to have Lucy pull the ball away at the last moment, just as she always does.
It captures the legislative fight over immigration reform quite nicely: I’m Charlie Brown; congressional Republicans are Lucy. I know they’re going to pull the ball away, even as my inner optimist pushed back, hoping against hope that this time might be different.
Roll Call ran a compelling item this week, noting eight related data points suggesting immigration reform isn’t as dead as it appears, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) openly and publicly mocking his own members for their reluctance to work on the issue. The same day, one of the leading Senate Democrats on the issue sounded a very confident note.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday predicted Congress would pass an immigration reform bill this year.“I want to let you in on a little secret. We are going to pass that bill and sign it into law this year,” Schumer said at the Citizenship Now immigration hotline in New York, according to the Daily News.
“See?” the inner optimist says in response. “How can you be so sure the bill is dead in the face of real evidence? Maybe Lucy won’t pull the ball away this time!”
Saying that House Republicans are going to kill immigration reform is easy and probably boring. But I’m afraid it’s probably true, too.
House Republicans effectively have three choices on immigration. They could kill the reform effort altogether. They could allow a vote on the popular, bipartisan Senate bill, which would likely pass if given a chance. Or they could put together their own alternative and try to work something out with the Senate.
House GOP leaders have already condemned the Senate bill; no House alternative has been introduced or disseminated among members; and the dominant faction within the caucus has left no doubt about how far they’ll go to reject a compromise.
John Boehner teased them last week for whining about the fact that they couldn’t tackle a tough topic like immigration reform. But conservative immigration foes have yet to let go of the speaker’s remarks about them.In the aftermath, they are stepping up their efforts to thwart any plan that might be afoot among House leadership to jam reform through the House by the end of this year. A group of conservatives plans to meet and strategize this week, and are scouring bills searching for offending language that might somehow slip through their gates.“We have to man the watchtowers 24/7,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), referring to a feeling among hard-liners that House leaders will try to sneak through immigration measures.Conservatives intend to huddle this week about immigration, according to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), an outspoken critic of providing legal status to undocumented immigrants and encouraging more legal migration in the future.
I’ve seen some suggestions that rank-and-file House Republicans are loath to deliver President Obama a major second-term accomplishment, and there’s certainly something to this.
But it’s important to remember that even if GOP lawmakers didn’t hold the president in contempt, they really hate immigration reform. This is true now, but it was also true when they killed a very similar bill being pushed by the Bush/Cheney administration in the not-too-distant past.
It’s not ridiculous to think Boehner could line up some piecemeal reform measures and somehow line up 218 votes by relying on Democrats, but even under this scenario, it’s less clear how he’d circumvent his own committee process – immigration bills would have to go through the House Judiciary Committee, and its chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), remains staunchly opposed to any bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Politico added, “Key lawmakers privately acknowledge that if the House doesn’t put immigration bills on the floor by sometime in July, reform efforts are dead.”
There may be action on immigration policy this year, but it’s far more likely to come from the White House through President Obama’s executive actions than to come from the GOP-led House.