Whatever your plans, they’re likely to be way more fun than the way John Boehner and his fellow House majority leaders anticipate passing their day: namely, listening to their colleagues rant and rage about immigration at a specially organized conference gripe session on the topic.
The closed-door powwow promises to be an electrifying exercise in spleen venting, thrust upon them by their Senate brethren. At some point in the next day or two, the upper chamber is expected to pass its sprawling, blood-sweat-and-tears-drenched overhaul of our FUBAR immigration system. In the run-up to voting, Hill watchers have been aflutter over whether the bill can pull enough Republican support to hit 70 “yeas”—maybe even 71! A procedural test vote Monday topped out at a mildly disappointing 67 (including 15 Rs). But the last-minute horse-trading continues, and reform advocates remain optimistic that the final tally will be big and bipartisan enough to goose the House into passing something similarly sweeping.
Except… When a policy area as complex and crazy-making as immigration collides with a House majority as fractious, divided, and obstructionist as this one, there is only so far momentum can take you. Already, House leadership is clear that it has no intention of taking up anything remotely resembling the wide-ranging Senate bill, with its path to citizenship and lack of hard targets for border apprehensions. No way. No how. It couldn’t even if it wanted to, says one Republican aide. “If we tried, it would probably fail.”
Everyone pretty much agrees that the House will essentially ignore the Senate’s work and put forth a wholly different bill, or, more precisely, a series of four narrowly tailored bills focused on individual policy pieces that the House deems important (read: border enforcement). Then you “wrap those together,” says the aide, and it’s off to a joint conference with the Senate. “In conference,” observes GOP leadership staffer turned strategist John Feehery, “anything goes.”
But to get even that far, the House first needs to pass something. “How they get this done is a matter of great speculation,” says Feehery. “It’s hard to pass anything out of the House.”
What about the 70-vote, Big Mo shaming strategy?
Don’t put too much stock in it, advises Rep. Tom Cole, whose deputy-whip duties put him in the thick of the House vote-counting. A 70+ win in the Senate would prove marginally helpful at best, he asserts, adding that the composition of Republican support there would matter more than the raw numbers. “If they can start moving guys who are well-identified conservatives” on the issue, that could make a difference, says Cole. Otherwise, “why in the world would a majority of House Republicans, who are on average more conservative than Republican Senators, listen to a minority of Republican Senators?”
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