Hold On a Minute

The Immigration Bandwagon

Before you assume immigration reform will pass, ponder the House of Representatives.

I'm not quite on board yet with the idea that something is going to pass, simply because my basic operating principle is, I will believe sanity out of the Republican Party when I see it.

I refer mainly of course to the House of Reps, and via Greg Sargent, we received this interesting breakdown from National Journal that I think helps explain why one should be circumspect about reform's chances in the House:

With very few exceptions, legislation cannot advance in the House without the support of a "majority of the majority" party. A Senate-passed immigration proposal probably had enough votes to pass the House, too, in 2006, but House Republicans never let it get to the floor, because their caucus didn't support it.

Fully 131 of the 233 House Republicans represent districts that are more than 80 percent white. Not only have many of those members opposed measures beyond improving border security in the past, but there are also no natural pressure groups for immigration reform in their districts. The Democratic Caucus, which is largely unified in support of some sort of immigration-reform proposal, has just 31 members from such very white districts.

These members simply don't feel the larger national pressures in their districts. Doesn't mean they won't do it. But I think it's a very iffy proposition.

And now that Obama, in his speech, has called for extending the reform package's benefits to same-sex couples with one American and one foreign national, we may already know at least one pressure point where the whole thing will break down. Bravo to Obama for putting this in there. I will be keenly interested to see the polling on that one. I would predict a supportive plurality, but perhaps not majority, with a large number of don't knows.

It will also matter what Latino public opinion is on the gay question, because if Latinos are willing to say yes, "our" bill should include this same-sex measure, then that's big leverage. I hope pollsters think of this and do large-enough samples of Latino respondents to get a meaningful result on this question.

Pending all that it's a smart play. A, it's the morally right thing to do, and B, it puts Mr. Rubio in a nice little box, if public opinion is on Obama's side. Is Rubio going to be willing to oppose reform because it would help gay people? That would hurt him in some big states in 2016. But if agreed to the gay provision, then how can he win GOP primaries?

Finally, it amuses me to see Republicans trying to arrange things so they get credit if a bill passes. They seem to be forgetting that it'll be Obama sitting at the desk doing the signing. I dont know of many people who refer to the civil rights bill as the Everett Dirksen bill.