Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was asked yesterday whether he expects the House to act on comprehensive immigration reform. "Yes," he replied. "They will act. They have to. This is something that the vast, vast majority of the Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support. And John Boehner should let the House vote. That's all he has to do. If the House voted, it would pass overwhelmingly."
In an unexpected public appeal, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch soon after announced his agreement, saying on Twitter that Reid is "right" and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) "should allow" the House to vote. "Lead," Murdoch said to the Ohio Republican, for the "country's sake."
But is Reid correct about support for the bipartisan Senate bill? If Boehner allowed a vote, would it pass? On ABC yesterday, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) repeated the prediction that if the House considered the Senate bill, "there would be enough House Republicans that would vote for it." It led to this exchange between George Stephanopoulos and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not going to happen, is it?COLE: No, it's not, and it shouldn't. And frankly, I don't think there are enough people who would vote for it.
This is actually the standard line from House Republicans: the Senate bill really is unpopular in the lower chamber. All this talk about Boehner allowing a vote, the argument goes, is misguided, since it would fail anyway.
And if this argument, from Cole and others, is correct, it would obviously poke a pretty serious hole in my discharge-petition thesis -- my argument is predicated on the assumption that if reform proponents could just get the bill to the floor, they could assemble a narrow coalition and get the thing passed. If I'm wrong, and the votes simply aren't there, then there's no point in even trying the discharge petition.
But here's the thing: there's only one way to find out.
Everyone's arguments at this point are based on speculation -- there are no definitive head counts -- so no one knows for sure what would happen if the already passed Senate bill came up for a vote in the House.
So what's the harm in finding out? Cole and other conservatives believe the legislation wouldn't pass. Are they right? Maybe, maybe not. All we know for sure is that the Senate approved a bipartisan bill that enjoys the support of the public, the White House, business leaders, labor unions, deficit hawks, and leaders from the Latino community.
Why not give it a chance? If Republicans are right and the Senate bill lacks sufficient support, they can prove it, end the speculation, and force Congress to consider an alternative. Until then, we're left to wonder what Boehner and his caucus are so afraid of.