Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who was the first GOP House member to sign on to a Democrat-led comprehensive immigration reform bill, said Thursday that the effort shouldn't be declared dead yet. In fact, he said, three additional members from both parties will announce their support for that bill in the next couple of days, with more to come next week. At the same time, he and five other Republicans are talking to fellow GOP members to get 40 to 45 more to sign a letter supporting immigration reform in general.
The odds of success on comprehensive immigration reform weren't great before, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) seemed to nail the coffin shut this week. "We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill," Boehner told reporters Wednesday.
His comments have not been well received. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters yesterday, "The very idea that there wouldn't be an immigration bill, I think that that's outrageous. I don't know whether people are taking it seriously, or not. But if that's the indication, well that's just a dereliction of duty." She added that the GOP's posture "removes any credible moral authority on the subject of immigration from any of the Republicans."
Pelosi isn't the only one reacting strongly to Boehner's obstinacy.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) added yesterday that he's still optimistic. "I think [immigration reform] will become a reality, because the House is in peril of losing its majority if it does nothing," Schumer said. "They have to do something. The Republican leadership in the House knows that. Speaker Boehner knows that." Schumer added there's "a real good chance" of reform passing before July 2014.
I find it difficult to relate to this optimism. By all appearances, Boehner and his caucus seem wholly unconcerned about losing their majority over immigration. Republican leaders have seen the polls, listened to the consultants, weighed their options, and have decided to reject popular, bipartisan legislation.
And while it's good to see pro-reform Republicans like Denham keep fighting, there's no reason to believe House GOP leaders will be moved to act when the number of House Republican co-sponsors on immigration goes from three to six. For that matter, a letter from 45 House Republicans -- just a fifth of the caucus -- saying they like the idea of reform in general will probably have a limited effect, too.
There are pretty much three ways this can go: (1) Boehner can listen to his far-right members and kill immigration reform; (2) Boehner can change his mind and let the House vote on a popular, bipartisan bill; or (3) roughly 20 House Republicans can force Boehner's hand by signing a discharge petition.
The Speaker says we should expect him to stick to Option #1. I fear he's right.