Political Animal


April 22, 2013 11:17 AM John Boehner and Gang Politics

By Ed Kilgore

Those looking down the road to the eventual disposition of immigration legislation may envision some Senate-driven bipartisan “momentum” that gets the job done. But aside from the many obstacles to the Gang of Eight’s handiwork in the Senate itself (where again, only 41 votes are needed to kill it all), the situation in the House looks plenty dicey. Check out this report from Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong (who presumably knows intra-Republican politics from his background at the Daily Caller, where he exposed the Journolist conspiracy in which I was heavily involved):

Two immigration trains have left the station in the House, but no one knows which one Speaker John A. Boehner wants to eventually arrive on the floor.
A secretive bipartisan working group — akin to the Senate-side “gang of eight” — is trying to finalize its “comprehensive” proposal. But House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte is flexing his muscles by launching a piecemeal-type legislative push, causing tension between the two factions and questions about who will take the lead.
Lawmakers and aides involved in the secret bipartisan group privately warn that Goodlatte could potentially blow up the push for an immigration bill in the House.
But immigration is under the Judiciary Committee’s purview, and moving the bill through the panel is part of the “regular order” Republicans have been clamoring for.

It is precisely the fear of “secretive bipartisan working groups” that led to the clamor for “regular order” among House Republicans, and also to Boehner’s bizarre pledge never to negotiate with the president again. So the scenario of the House accepting some Senate-brokered immigration deal from on high almost definitely involves the butchering of two major conservative sacred cows: “regular order” and also the Hastert Rule, whereby bills not enjoying majority support in the House Republican Conference should not be brought to the floor, particularly over the dead body of the Republican-controlled committee system. Boehner’s past violations of the Hastert Rule are a big part of the fragility of his hold on the speakership.

But if House Republicans do follow “regular order” and/or try to craft a bill a majority of GOPers can support, the Judiciary Committee could represent a very big problem:

The bipartisan group {i.e., the House Gang] has briefed Goodlatte and Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee that deals with immigration, sources said, but it does not appear the two parties are working closely together.
The Judiciary panel includes a number of very conservative members who might vigorously object to anything approaching “amnesty” for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States.
Those include Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio, J. Randy Forbes of Virginia and the committee’s former chairman, Lamar Smith of Texas.
For example, Smith said in an interview that he was deeply and irrevocably opposed to the bipartisan Senate immigration bill unveiled recently.
“I don’t think I’m ever gonna have a vote on it. I don’t think it gets out of the Senate, and it certainly wouldn’t pass over here,” he said.

Gowdy (a Tea Party stalwart from SC), Smith, King, Gohmert, Jordan (chair of the right-wing Republican Study Committee) and Forbes are not among those likely to give a damn about the belief of Republican elites that getting on the comprehensive immigration reform bandwagon and taking the GOP all the way back to where it was in the Bush administration is a political imperative. If you are handicapping the likely outcome of the immigration debate in Congress, take a long look at those names, consider the itch between Boehner’s shoulder blades, and bet low.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • JMG on April 22, 2013 11:39 AM:

    Dear Ed: I don't believe either party in Congress has the slightest expectation immigration reform will pass the House. The Senate Republicans trying to craft a deal merely want to be able to say, "hey we're trying on this issue" while the Democrats want to be able to say "Republicans blocked reform again."

  • c u n d gulag on April 22, 2013 12:00 PM:

    I don't know about betting low, Ed.

    I think if I could find a bookie to take my high bet that anything that comes from great Conservative minds like King's and Gohmert's, will be both stupid AND evil, I'd make a fortune.

    The problem with the Republican Party, with their safe gerrymandered Congressional districts, and big-mouthed Congresscritters who love the TV camera's, is that those TV images go beyond their safe Red Districts.

    And what people nod their heads at in approval in Sisterschtupp, seems like the ravings of that religious end-times loon at the park, with his soapbox and megaphone, in the local park, to the rest of us.

    We need to openly MOCK Republican politicians, every time they open their mouths.
    The world would be a better place if we were laughing at them every second of the day, instead of treating them as if they're saying anything worth listening to.

    You first, cowardly, compliant, and complicit, MSM.
    You start.
    You've owed us that for over 30 years - ever since Reagan said that ketchup was a vegetable, or that trees pollute, and you didn't openly mock him.

  • Maritza on April 22, 2013 12:38 PM:

    The thing is that the House isn't going to be creating a comprehensive bill what's so ever but smaller bills that deal with specific things such as border security, guest worker programs, etc. Once those smaller bills are passed in the House they will go to conference with the Senate comprehensive bill and the House bills and try to broker a deal.

    The final bill WILL have a pathway to citizenship in it. And will be voted on by both the House and the Senate.

  • LaFollette Progressive on April 22, 2013 12:44 PM:

    Honestly, I'm not sure why anyone in Congress even tries to pass legislation in the public interest anymore.

    We've all seen this movie before: Bipartisan group "compromises" on a watered-down bill somewhere to the Right of the 2004 GOP platform, laced with efforts to address every single complaint the Far Right has ever made, no matter how unreasonable. The airwaves immediately begin to crackle with right-wing howls about tyranny and/or treason and/or Greece and/or Sharia Law and/or Benghazi.

    Then all the Republicans (except possibly the chump co-sponsors, but sometimes even them) oppose the bill.

    Nothing to do but wait for 2016 and hope against hope for a Goldwater-esque implosion and landslide.

  • Peter C on April 22, 2013 12:55 PM:

    I think what the filibuster of Toomey-Manchin shows is that the Republicans are still determined that nothing get done by Congress. They are still the party of ‘no’, and they still have plenty of ways to stop things. They can, and will, spread the blame. One week it will be a filibuster in the Senate. Another week, it will be a committee in the House. They will do their best to make it seem like obstruction and deadlock are ‘normal’ and generally a problem with Washington and not specifically a problem with them. Fundamentally, though, the Republicans don’t want government to work and they have the power to make sure it doesn’t. It’s going to be a frustrating two years.