Let’s Get Real About This


Washington is now focused on the political dance between President Obama and key Senate Republicans over immigration reform. The overwhelming assumption is that immigration will happen, certainly in this Congress and likely this calendar year. The question is just how the politics gets massaged. But what if none of this is right and immigration reform cannot happen unless and until Democrats retake control of the House.Any immigration reform bill has to be reported out of the House Judiciary Committee. And the Chair of the committee who’d have to pass it out says no way to any ‘pathway to citizenship.’ “People have a pathway to citizenship right now: It’s to abide by the immigration laws, and if they have a family relationship, if they have a job skill that allows them to do that, they can obtain citizenship,” Goodlatte said.

Yet the ‘pathway to citizenship’ is the core of the reform Democrats overwhelmingly embrace, the public at large embraces by significant margins. There’s simply no way a bill passes and gets signed by the President that doesn’t include one. And as Benjy Sarlin explained yesterday, what President Obama is proposing as a ‘pathway’ is actually quite expansive and generous to undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

It seems unlikely to me that Goodlatte is bluffing. He’s a conservative Republican who speaks for the base of his party which has made ‘amnesty’ and deportation critical litmus tests for candidates during the last two presidential cycles. He speaks for the folks who gave John McCain a rough time at that townhall on Tuesday.

You might assume that when push comes to shove John Boehner would let a bill go through the House on a majority of Democratic votes. But how does it even get through Committee?

I’m not saying reform won’t happen. I believe it will happen Eventually. Democrats desperately want it and Republicans desperately need it. But this confirms for me my belief that this entire debate is moving forward on the quite false assumption that the actual Republican party somehow no longer exists. It does.

[ed.note: I’ve gotten a few responses to this post that make it clear to me that I wasn’t clear enough. A bill doesn’t have to go through committee. And as one reader just noted, really big deals often don’t. But … but, these kinds of actions are a big deal in themselves if they’re clearly intended to circumvent a chairman or the party’s whole backbench which this pretty clearly would be. More often, Goodlatte is really just an example for the better part of the Republican caucus. It’s not like he’s just some crazy guy who happens to be in this pivotal position. He’s representative of the views of his caucus. I do think we’ll eventually get reform. But I also think people are completely underestimating the wrecking ball that will have to be put through the House to get it. And remember, Boehner’s a weak speaker.]