Initially, congressional Republicans told Democrats, “We won’t consider immigration reform unless President Obama starts taking enforcement seriously.” The White House agreed and deportations reached a record high.
Soon after, congressional Republicans added, “We won’t consider immigration reform unless there’s a bipartisan bill.” Congressional Democrats agreed and a bipartisan compromise agreement took shape and passed the Senate.
Congressional Republicans then said, “We won’t consider immigration reform unless we can break up the legislation into chunks and approve the provisions piecemeal.” Democrats again agreed.
Finally, congressional Republicans concluded, “We can’t consider immigration reform because we perceive President Obama as an out-of-control radical who ignores federal laws.” Yesterday, Democrats signaled a willingness to accommodate this concern, too.
A key Democratic senator proposed to delay implementation of a proposed new law until after President Barack Obama leaves office. The suggestion floated by Sen. Charles Schumer, D- N.Y., was an attempt to mollify Republican concerns about Obama not enforcing the law.“Let’s enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start ‘til 2017 after President Obama’s term is over,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Schumer added, “I think the rap against him that he actually won’t enforce the law is false – he’s deported more people than any other president. But you could actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it.”
As a substantive matter, Schumer has a point. Indeed, as Jonathan Cohn noted, immigration reform advocates were generally receptive to Schumer’s idea, in part because “they know federal agencies would need at least a year, and probably more time than that, to write the relevant regulations anyway.”
But right on cue, House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office rejected Schumer’s offer a few hours later, calling the suggestion “entirely impractical.”
In other words, every time Republicans come up with a new demand, Democrats agree to GOP terms, only to see Republicans move the goalposts a little further away. The obvious question is why.
And the obvious answer is, most House Republicans don’t actually want to pass immigration reform, so they’re constantly looking for an excuse to kill popular legislation.
Indeed, within a few days of House GOP leaders unveiling a list of “principles” they could tolerate in an immigration reform package, Boehner reportedly faced a “revolt” by his own members. One GOP lawmaker said the Speaker started moving away from immigration reform soon after the “principles” were unveiled because Boehner “understood it was not worth picking a fight that would almost certainly end with nothing accomplished.”
To be sure, there’s still plenty of posturing going on. Many of the reports over the weekend made it seem as if House Republicans have already killed immigration reform for the year, though I suspect the obituary is premature.
That said, Schumer’s latest offer calls Boehner’s bluff and leaves Republicans without any excuses. If and when GOP lawmakers once again kill the popular legislation, there will be no doubt as to who bears responsibility for its demise.