When the Senate passes its immigration reform bill this afternoon, Republicans will be left to carry the blame if they can’t, or choose not, to move a comprehensive bill of their own with a pathway to citizenship through the House.
Given the immediacy of the situation, and every indication that they’re going to drop the ball, what they need to do is figure out a way to avoid that blame, or even better to turn it back on Democrats. The problem for them is, see paragraph one. And paragraph one is leading them into amazing displays of public reasoning like this from deputy whip Pete Roskam.“If you’re the White House right now,” Roskam told reporters, “and you have a signature law–that is, Obamacare–that is completely a legacy issue for the president, and it’s looking like implementation is going to be a disaster, and if you’re on your heels in terms of these scandals, and you’re flummoxed by the NSA, there’s one issue out there that’s good for the White House. That’s immigration. The question is: How much energy does the White House actually put into getting the legislation, or do they want to keep the issue for 2014?”
That’s a tortured way of saying Obama probably wants Republicans to kill immigration reform so he can distract the public from various other failures in 2014. You’d think the obvious move for Republicans would be to deny Obama the satisfaction by passing something that we’d all recognize as immigration reform. But they can’t do that. So they’re left with claiming their inability to do what they set out to do after the election is a somehow the result of Obama’s mysterious conniving.
An argument like that might work if Obama was out there making demands the House couldn’t possibly meet. But what he’s doing is asking the House to pass something more than a dozen Republican senators think is good immigration policy. And more to the point he’s asking the House to pass something the House could easily pass if they’d just allow a vote and let Democrats carry it.
Consider a wife who sends her husband to the store with $60, and says she’ll cook him dinner if he buys some meat and veggies. Instead, an hour later he comes home with 48 beers and a trash novel and everyone goes hungry. He might later try to claim his wife made him do it but nobody’s going to buy that.
And as I pointed out in a post last week, Boehner looks like he’s fixing to buy beer and a trash novel.
The weird thing is that Republicans — even ones who support reform — have seen this problem coming for a long time. But instead of engaging in whatever real talk might have changed the whip count in the GOP conference, what they’ve done instead is encourage Republicans to concoct a plausible argument that they shouldn’t be blamed for failure.
Here’s Jeb Bush, speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center earlier this month.
“It’d be hard to imagine, if Republicans in the House pass a bill and it doesn’t — and you can’t forge a consensus in the conference committee for whatever reason, that someone could be blamed politically.”
And here’s Haley Barbour at the same event.
“There are a lot of Republicans who want immigration reform as bad as anybody else. And to predetermine today that if it [fails] it was Republicans fault? That is something that we have to work on. Hopefully we’re going to get a bill — we’re going to get a bill that passes both houses, the President signs. But if we don’t, yeah, Republicans gotta make sure that if they tried to support a bill that they couldn’t get passed because the Senate wouldn’t take it or the Senate wouldn’t sign it or name 100 things, that there isn’t just a predisposition no matter what the facts are, Well it was the Republicans fault.”
The problem with these arguments is that we’ve already seen what the Senate has ordered and we’re soon get a look at what the House comes back with. If it’s meat and pasta, maybe the story changes. But it’s probably going to be beer and a trash novel. And there’s no way the GOP can pretend that’s a reasonable substitute the Senate and President should be prepared to work with.