Why Passing House Immigration Bills in the Next Congress Matters, Pt. 3

The latest twist in the Democratic attempt to muscle and scare House Republicans into passing a Senate-like version of their immigration bill is to claim that, according to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, passing a bill after the November election “will be significantly harder than it is now.” (Emphasis in original.)

Their reasoning: “Some might respond that once Republicans control the Senate next year, they can simply pass reform in both chambers on their own terms. But foes of reform will point to the GOP victory as proof they don’tneed reform to win.”

Beside Sargent argues, “Plus, this is a pretty big gamble to begin with, since Republicans might not win back the Senate“.

Translation: Republicans should pass the Democratic immigration bill now, before the November election, because if they win the Senate “foes of reform” will argue against passing any bill since the election demonstrated that they didn’t need one to win. On the other hand, Republicans should pass the Democrat’s bill now because they may not win the Senate.

Sargent takes the usual Democratic position of equating their immigration bill with reform. That allows him to tar anyone who has a different perspective as a “foe of reform”. He compounds his errors by assuming the Republicans are not smart enough to understand the distinction between an off-year congressional election and a presidential election. And he further assumes that Republicans don’t understand that it would be prudent and extremely helpful to their presidential ticket, whoever they are, to be able to run on a platform that includes immigration enforcement and a legalization initiative that combines fairness, compassion, and appropriateness.

There may be some Republicans who hope that true immigration reform can be finessed by doing nothing, and hoping for a Republican Congress and president in 2016. That is an avoidable error of substantial political magnitude, and a good example of ostrich optimism.

Perhaps, paradoxically, the period after the 2014 congressional elections and before the 2016 presidential election represents the very best opportunity for real immigration reform. And it is the best period for House and Senate Republicans to agree on a bill that will have the support of the vast majority of the American people and provide a sound platform for their 2016 presidential ticket.

Does this analysis depend on the Republicans winning the Senate? Not really. Regardless of the Senate outcome, the Republican presidential ticket will still have to deal with the issue of immigration. It will be better to have a passed bill or set of bills, even if they weren’t ultimately passed by the Senate, or even passed by the Senate and vetoed by the president.

Why is that? Several reasons.

First, House-passed immigration reform bills will lay out an important set of markers. The first of these is that Republicans are serious about immigration reform and are attempting to do something legislative about it. This would very obviously and very immediately undercut the theme that Republicans don’t care about immigration reform.

Yet the advantages of passing real reform legislation go well beyond that for Republicans and especially for immigration reform.

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