House to Ignore Senate Immigration Bill

The United States Senate has just about ceased to function. Thanks to a Republican Party that has decided to filibuster everything, any measure that lacks 60 votes is going nowhere. So, when that august body passed an immigration bill yesterday with 68 votes in favor, it was a big deal. A great many talking heads came to the conclusion that this margin would put pressure on the House of Representatives to act and that immigration reform is on the way. This is nonsense. The smart money says the House won’t act on immigration this summer, might not act this year, and might not act at all.

The House leadership has already made clear that the Senate bill is dead on arrival. Before the Senate passed its own bill, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told the press, “The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes, We’re going to do our own bill, through regular order.” Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) explained, “I donâ��t want people to get into the mindset that if the Senate passes something, somehow that comes to the [House] floor, just like that. Regular order means we pass something, the Senate passes something, and then we go to conference.”

A meeting of the House Republicans currently scheduled for July 10 is the kick-off date. There, one can expect a long meeting full of yelling and screaming and tantrums from the nativists who would prefer that immigrants simply stay out. In the run up to this meeting, and during it, the House GOP leadership will finally get a chance to see just how loud and numerous the know-nothings are. The speaker has said he won’t violate the Hastert Rule to get immigration reform done. That rule isn’t really a rule; it is more of a primciple. If there isn’t a majority of the majority party in favor of a measure, this principle says the speaker has no business bringing it to the floor for a vote. It is this idea that prevents Mr. Boehner from working more with the Democrats in crafting bipartisan legislation. Enough of his caucus opposes compromise as a concept that he can’t muster a majority of GOP legislators and win over a few Democrats because if some Democrats are voting yes, there must be something wrong with the bill in the eyes of some Republicans.

So, the House will tackle this in “regular order.” One should note that it has taken the Senate 6 months to get the job done at the other end of the Capitol building. To expect the House to act any faster (and there’s the August recess to consider) is silly. If the House takes the same amount of legislative time as the Senate (meaning no real work in August nor around the holidays), a vote might be possible in February.

But there’s a problem with that date. The entire House is up for re-election next year, and so, there will be little reason for the House GOP to do anything.except posture. Actually passing a bill would open members up to primary challenges (the only thing many of them fear given their gerrymandered districrs), and it would remove an issue for the general election.

The Republican leadership understands that it must do something to appeal to the growing Latino vote, and immigration reform is the most effective way to do that. The know-nothing faction, though, is going to doom that effort if Mr. Boehner doesn’t do some crafty negotiating and abandon the Hastert principle as he has done a few other times (e.g., the federal debt ceiling fiasco).

The Senate is barely functioning these days, and it saddens one to realize that the House is even less effective. Immigration reform remains distant under these circumstances.