This week, a number of Republicans said that they would simply pass immigration reform again next Congressional session if legislation isn’t finished this session. If Republicans win the Senate this fall, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — no friend to real immigration reform — would likely be the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He’s said that he would be more inclined to support a bill that had tough border security and interior enforcement provisions.
“We’d start over again next year,” Grassley said, and added that any bills passed by his committee might look quite different from S. 744. “I’d make a decision about whether you could get more done by separate bills or a comprehensive bill.”
That’s already worrisome enough, coming from Grassley. From the chattering class today come a number of pieces reminding us of how political circumstances in 2015 could very well be too difficult to bring up immigration reform. First, from Jim Manley of the Wall Street Journal, criticizing the piecemeal aspect:
[If Republicans win the Senate this year, there’s little evidence] Senate Republicans would demonstrate much willingness to comprise on a controversial topic such as immigration just as their presidential primaries are heating up. But the strategy that Sen. Rubio and others suggest for moving the ball forward on immigration involves moving legislation in a piecemeal fashion in the Senate. It’s possible such an approach could work in the House. But Senate rules would allow opponents of reform to introduce amendment after amendment and filibuster legislation, ultimately making passage all but impossible–which suggests an utter lack of seriousness about getting something done.
And Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal, taking on the idea that Sen. Grassley could ever be serious about passing meaningful reform:
That “can’t trust [Obama]” argument doesn’t change if Republicans gain control of the Senate, since Mr. Obama will still be president for two more years. If anything, the president might be more likely to use executive authority to bypass Congress if his party is in the minority in both chambers.
And then there is the matter of those Republicans who don’t want to do anything other than add fencing and border patrols—regardless of who’s president—because they fear that immigrants steal jobs. Sen. Chuck Grassley would head the powerful Judiciary Committee if Republicans win back the Senate. Mr. Grassley, a labor protectionist with a long history of opposing increases in legal immigration, now says that he’d be all for comprehensive reform if only Mitch McConnell were once again the Senate majority leader. “We’d start over again next year,” Mr. Grassley told the Hill. But the senator’s immigration record does not instill confidence.
And from Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
[That Republicans would pass immigration reform next year] contradicts common sense, human nature and everything that we’ve seen out of the GOP on this issue over the last few years…
Let’s assume that the GOP does win control of the Senate in November. Flush with success, confidence renewed and more certain than ever that they have the support of “real Americans”, why on earth would Republicans then enact legislation that they see as part of President Obama’s agenda? Talk radio and conservative interest groups would lose what remains of their sanity at such a betrayal, arguing that they didn’t elect Republican majorities just to see them enact “amnesty.”
(Also check out this January piece from Greg Sargent arguing that Republicans taking up immigration reform in 2015 — and likely failing right before the 2016 election — would constitute their “nightmare” scenario.)
Republicans don’t have until next year to pass immigration reform. They barely have until the end of next month. After that, efforts will move on without them, and people will know that it was they who killed reform. Good luck explaining that to Latino voters in 2016.