What Happens Now With Immigration?

Wth the Senate on board, Dylan Matthews previews the House’s Gang of Seven bill:

The bill will almost certainly include a path to citizenship, border security measures, a guest worker program and other similar attributes to the Senate Gang of Eight bill. However, there will likely be significant differences. [Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)] has said that he thinks some parts of the Senate bill — such as the scale of its guest worker program, as negotiated by the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — are unworkable, and the House bill may reflect those differences of opinion.

Diaz-Balart has also sounded optimistic about passing the bill through the House with majority support from Republicans, allowing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) to obey the “Hastert rule,” wherein only bills supported by a “majority of the majority” reach the House floor. However, [Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)] has signaled it may be able to come to a vote without meeting that requirement. Some outside observers are optimistic about this channel; Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, director for civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza, expressed optimism about it in an interview last month.

Nate Cohn, on the other hand, argues that “if the Senate bill can only attract 30 percent of Senate Republicans, it has no chance of earning 50 percent of the more conservative House GOP caucus”:

Which brings immigration back to the so-called “Hastert Rule.” Last week, Speaker Boehner suggested that he wouldn’t move an immigration bill without the support of a majority of House Republicans. If so, immigration reform is in jeopardy. The Speaker and House Republicans have few incentives—if any—to cave to immigration reform. When Boehner folded on the “Hastert Rule” in the past, many or maybe most House Republicans probably thought it was a good idea. No, they didn’t like Sandy relief, VAWA, or the fiscal cliff compromise, but none of those bills were bad enough to justify stomaching the public backlash that would have accompanied outright blocking the legislation. In contrast, House Republicans appear authentically opposed to immigration reform. They also hail from safe, conservative districts where the Hispanic vote is unlikely to threaten their reelection campaigns.

Morrissey agrees that immigration reform could fail in the House:

[W]hen will the House get around to passing their bills? Nothing has come out of committee yet, and there’s only about three weeks left on the legislative schedule before the August recess. When they come back, both chambers will be working on debt ceilings and FY2014 budgets, which have tighter deadlines than does immigration reform. There’s a good chance that the House will end up doing nothing on immigration reform, or perhaps only passing a border-security bill that the Senate will ignore.

Chait sees another way forward, a “discharge petition” to make sure the bill gets a vote:

If 218 members of the House sign one, then it automatically comes to the House floor for a vote. Last December, Democrats in the House threatened a discharge petition to bring up a Senate bill extending the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000 a year. …

So then the question would be, could Democrats find seventeen House Republicans willing to endure the wrath of conservatives to sign a discharge petition? The threat would come from primary challenges from conservatives. On the other hand, there is a lot of pro-immigration money out there available to support any Republican facing such a challenge. And the other big advantage of a discharge petition is that Republicans wouldn’t need to save bipartisan face by rounding up a respectable number of their own party to support it. Just the bare minimum would do.

Indeed, the House wouldn’t have to legislate at all — it could (and would have to) simply photocopy the Senate bill. No hearings, no negotiations — and since the House is bad at all those things, that’s another plus.

I fear that the chaotic nature of the GOP may turn this critical moment to ashes. But Chait’s proposal is an intriguing one. And some of the grandstanding right now is exactly that: grandstanding. My true worry is simply that the GOP hates the president so much that giving him another massive reform, after Obamacare, would cement his transformational legacy and drive them nuts. It’s not rational, but reason has almost no role any more in the GOP base.