With the shutdown over and the debt ceiling raised, officials in Washington have to decide what, if anything, they’re prepared to work on next. If the last several days are any indication, congressional Republicans are eager to talk about a dysfunctional website, which I suppose is a step up from Benghazi conspiracy theories.
But President Obama hasn’t given up hope on comprehensive immigration reform. It was the issue he emphasized as the shutdown crises neared its end, and it’s the issue he’ll push later this morning in a speech at the White House.
The obvious question, of course, is whether there’s any reason at all to believe the Republican-led House will consider the bipartisan package already approved by the Senate. Several prominent GOP lawmakers, including “Gang of Eight” member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have said the recent crises make success less likely because Obama hurt Republicans’ feelings when they shut down the government.
But my MSNBC colleague Benjy Sarlin had a report yesterday on a glimmer of hope from one key Republican in particular.
Immigration reform faces an uphill climb this year, but Speaker John Boehner says the House is still working on its own legislation after abandoning the Senate’s already passed bipartisan plan.“I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed, and I’m hopeful,” Boehner told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the issue.
Also note, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told Greg Sargent this week that an unspecified number of House Republicans are still in negotiations to develop a piecemeal immigration proposal. That’s not exactly a guarantee anyone can take to the bank, though as Greg noted, the fact that there’s any progress at all among House GOP lawmakers “means not all Republicans are using the shutdown loss as a way to bail on immigration reform.”
For those who’ve followed the debate closely, skepticism has quickly become the norm, and for good reason. We’ve heard talk from Diaz-Balart and others for months about imminent progress, which is always just out of reach. That said, there are at least some indications that reform isn’t completely dead in the lower chamber,
As the Speaker very likely knows, House Republicans won’t welcome the challenge of explaining why they killed 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. For that matter, if the party wants to protect its majority next year, House Republicans would benefit from having at least one legislative accomplishment to represent four years in the majority.
What’s more, let’s also not forget that Boehner, the one who thinks immigration “needs to be addressed,” could just ignore the self-imposed, often-ignored Hastert Rule, bring the Senate bill to the floor, and ask House members to vote up or down. It would suggest the Speaker has far more chutzpah than he’s demonstrated thus far, and it’s a real long-shot, but a House majority would almost certainly pass the legislation.
Indeed, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday, “Bring this bill to the floor. Bring an immigration reform bill to the floor. We will pass it.”