At the start of this Congress, comprehensive immigration reform looked like the one major issue that might actually garner enough bipartisan support to become law. And when a legislative package sailed through the Senate with relative ease in June, reform proponents were right to be optimistic.
Progress, however, has come to a halt. The bipartisan House group working on a proposal has effectively collapsed, with two Republican members abandoning the “gang,” claiming they can’t trust President Obama to enforce the law.
Options are clearly dwindling. As we discussed on Friday, there’s not much the Senate can do, since it’s already passed a good bill. There’s not much the White House can do, either. Rank-and-file House Republicans seem unlikely to step up, since they oppose many of the underlying provisions of any comprehensive solution on ideological grounds.
Maybe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can figure something out? Greg Sargent reported yesterday that the former Speaker is working on a measure intended to keep the pressure on the House GOP majority.
Pelosi – along with Dem Rep. Xavier Becerra, a key player on immigration – may introduce in the House the version of the Senate bill that passed through the Judiciary Committee. Dems would be expected to rally around it. Pelosi would take the bill, which doesn’t include the amendment throwing a huge amount of money at border security that was attached on the Senate floor by Senators John Hoeven and Bob Corker, which is opposed by a lot of House Democrats and even some House Republicans who derided it as “border candy.”
Instead, Pelosi’s plan (which is not finalized) would take the Senate Judiciary Committee bill and add another measure – sponsored by GOP Rep. Michael McCaul and Dem Rep. Bennie Thompson – that sets out clear border security benchmarks and calls for the meeting of those metrics to be consulted on by a number of key stakeholders. That measure passed the House Homeland Security Community with unanimous bipartisan support.
The discharge petition idea, which has always struck me as a viable alternative, has apparently fallen out of favor – Democrats just don’t think they can find 20 or so GOP House members who’ll sign it.
The next question, of course, is whether Pelosi’s new tack is likely to be effective. As is always the case with every policy proposal, the details will make all the difference – will Republicans call for benchmarks to serve as “triggers” before progressive measures can take effect? Will the GOP extend a de facto veto power to the stakeholders?
That said, Pelosi’s idea at least keeps the debate going and breathes new life into legislation that’s otherwise faltering. What’s more, it also puts Republican skeptics in the awkward position of possibly rejecting measures that enjoyed bipartisan support just this year.