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June 24, 2013 6:10 PM Agony in August

By Ed Kilgore

A final note today on the obstacles to a bipartisan immigration reform bill comes from Reid Wilson of National Journal. He suggests we take a look at the calendar and recall what happened in August of 2009:

Six months into Obama’s first term in office, Democrats held out hope that they could fashion a bipartisan agreement on health care reform. Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was working closely with Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s ranking member. Obama himself was assiduously wooing Sen. Olympia Snowe, who seemed open to reform. And White House officials believed they could find areas of common ground with dozens of Republicans in the House to form a truly bipartisan set of reforms.
Then came August, when conservative protesters who affiliated themselves with the nascent Tea Party movement descended upon town hall meetings held by members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. Democrats were on the defensive while Republicans, who might have once considered supporting a compromise, realized the level of anger their base felt over the bill.

That was then. This is now:

This time, many of the same activists who made their opposition to health care reform felt are turning their ire towards the immigration reform proposal currently making its way through the Senate. With Democrats likely to support the bill in overwhelming numbers, the targets of activist anger will be Republicans who have yet to make up their mind.
“You can pretty much guarantee that if this bill is hanging out there over the August recess, conservative activists are going to be motivated,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America, one of the Washington-based conservative groups that opposes the Gang of Eight’s bill.

According to a new Pew survey on immigration reform, Tea Party Republicans—i.e., the party’s conservative “base”—oppose allowing any legal status—not a green card or citizenship, mind you, but minimal legalization—until “borders are effectively controlled,” by a 67-27 margin. So what do you think House Republicans are going to hear when they go on recess in August?

I don’t know anyone who really believes the House is going to pass an immigration bill before the August recess, particularly amidst all the parallels conservatives are drawing to the haste with which Congress allegedly passed Obamacare. So August is going to be a hellish agony for Republicans who are “privately” plotting to give Barack Obama his greatest policy triumph since the Affordable Care Act.

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.

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