The Republican House isn't going to do jack about immigration reform.
Republican leaders in the U.S. House made clear there is one thing they intend to do with the comprehensive immigration reform passed with great pageantry by the Senate Thursday: Ignore it.Why? Pretty simple, really.
The folks who keep these Republican Congressmen in office don't want brown people on any "path to citizenship." They want to see undocumented workers a) deported or b) thrown in jail. They also don't want more brown people "stealing" their health care and "services." It's bad enough that they have to share those things with the ones who already live here.
But it's more than that. Immigration reform would hand a huge political victory to President Obama. That's the last thing they want.
Those are the simple facts on the ground.
Just to be clear, though, they harbor no bad feelings about brown people as a rule.
They don't mind brown people cutting their lawns; they just don't want them teeing off on their golf course.
They don't mind brown people serving them from behind the counter; they just don't want them ahead in line at the supermarket.
They don't mind brown people washing their cars; they just don't want them driving on their streets.
They don't mind brown people picking up their trash; they just don't want to see them in their kids' school.
And they're not going to support any Republican Congressman who wants those things.
They know John McCain is a RINO, so when he says stuff like this:
“All I can say is that maybe they ought to look back at what happened in 2012 and 2008 with the Hispanic voters and then maybe they ought to reevaluate what they are saying,” he said. “There’s plenty of issues that separate Republicans and Democrats but … 70, 80 percent, depending on which polls you judge by, are in favor of what we’re trying to do.”Well, all that does is reinforce the fact that they're right and he's wrong.
As far as the "Latino and Hispanic backlash," this GOP House and its constituents are deaf, dumb and blind to it. Their districts are so gerrymandered it doesn't matter:
With only about one-in-10 House districts being hotly contested between the two parties – and only a handful of those having a significant Latino population – most Republican members of the House don’t fear an immediate backlash at the ballot box.Eventually, as the Hispanic/Latino demographic expands, that will change. For the near term, though, they believe that expansion only has political consequences on the statewide and national level, where the Hispanic/Latino vote cannot be "fenced out."
So why would any Tea Party Congressman vote for this?
The Chamber of Commerce really wants this. And why not? Cheap labor means more profits for them. And with a path to citizenship, they won't have to keep pretending that the entire economies of the states of Texas and Arizona, for example, wouldn't collapse without the cheap labor of undocumented immigrants. They won't have to hide those workers offsite in trailers anymore, the way they've been doing for the last thirty years. The Chamber is even selling reform as embodying "conservative values."
So they're spending big bucks to pressure these Republican Congressmen to see things their way.
Mark Zuckerberg (facebook) and his tech cronies Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) really want this, too. Because we live in a "knowledge economy," where everyone is entitled to an equal share of the "knowledge" they contend their products provide. So it's important that we bring in the best overseas workers we can find, because there's just a "skills gap" here in the U.S. The more highly-skilled foreign workers they can hire, the argument goes, the more "knowledge" they can impart to us all. And each highly-skilled foreign worker will create 6.1 new jobs for ordinary dull-witted Americans! You'll see!
And they too are spending big bucks to pressure these Republican Congressmen to see things their way.
So what's a Tea Party-spouting hometown conservative Republican supposed to do, with all these competing interests whirling around him like an Oklahoma Tornado? It was so easy when all he had to do was shout "Obamacare!," "Black Man!", and "Guv'mnt Takeover!"
The easiest way out is the path of least resistance: do nothing. It's what they do best.
Some have suggested the answer might lie in a Discharge Petition:
As a rule, the only bills that reach the House floor for a vote are the ones House leaders allow to reach the floor. But there's an exception: if 218 members sign a discharge petition, their preferred legislation is brought up for a vote whether the majority party's leadership likes it or not.Sounds plausible, right? Here's where I agree with Kevin Drum: Don't hold your breath.
In terms of specific numbers, there are 201 Democrats in the House caucus. If literally all of them are prepared to support the bipartisan Senate bill, they would need 17 House Republicans -- just 7% of the 231 GOP House members -- to join them on the discharge petition. If, say, 10 conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats from Southern states balked, they would need 27 Republicans to break party ranks.
Logic is simply not the GOP's strong suit these days, and frankly, neither is Machiavellian maneuvering. The only thing they know how to do is yell and scream and hold votes on endless doomed repetitions of bills designed to demonstrate their ideological purity. A different House and a different party leader might be crafty enough to see the value in a discharge petition, but not this one. They're true believers. They won't secretly agree to leave the defectors alone after the vote, which is the minimum necessary for this to work, nor will John Boehner risk telling them secretly that he won't take away their committee assignments or otherwise retaliate against them. The party leadership just doesn't have this level of craftiness in them.So Immigration reform may very well be the victim of the Republican House's own stupidity. Where does that leave the Democratic Party?
In a pretty sweet spot, it seems.
The Hispanic/Latino vote will become even more Democratic than it already is. The Chamber of Commerce may come to the conclusion that the Tea Party isn't really representing their interests after all, and start cutting off the cash spigot. Zuckerberg and his pals may realize their money is wasted as long as a race of Neanderthals controls the House of Representatives.
All of these things will bode well for Democrats.
Immigration may make 2014 more interesting than any of us expected.