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June 17, 2013 9:50 AM Raising the Stakes on Immigration

By Ed Kilgore

On Meet the Press yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham was a one-man expectations-raising crew, sunnily predicting that the Senate would pass immigration reform legislation with more than 70 votes, and then suggesting that if a bill wasn’t ultimately enacted, then maybe the Republican Party should just fold its tent.

“If we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who we run in 2016,” he said. “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party.”

We’re going to hear a lot of such talk this week as Graham and the rest of the handful of Republican senators committed to comprehensive immigration reform try to expand their ranks by ballyhooing Democratic concessions on border enforcement—still all 100% up in the air—and creating an impression of irresistible momentum. They’ll get a lot of help from MSM observers who find conservative resistance to this legislation baffling, and figure the “Republican Establishment” will do whatever is necessary to bring the yahoos into line.

Check out this assertion from Al Hunt:

here is a prediction, based more on instinct than reporting: Mr. Boehner, if necessary, will sacrifice his speakership rather than be party to the death of the immigration overhaul. He realizes that, even though it may not much affect congressional elections next year, his party cannot continue to lose 70 percent of the Hispanic vote and be competitive nationally.

Well, maybe, particularly if Boehner’s about ready to hang it up any way and can facilitate his soft landing in a cushy post-Speaker job by “betraying the base,” as he would be accused of, one last time. But my own prediction is that Boehner will fold like a cheap suit under pressure from the Right. Conservatives don’t by and large accept any of the assumptions Graham and Hunt are making in calling immigration reform essential to the survival of the GOP. Many of them think Romney lost in 2012 because of a drop-off in “discouraged” white voters, not poor performance among Latinos; others think immigration policy isn’t the main source of the GOP’s problems in that demographic; and still others think whatever gains Republicans make among Latinos for backing immigration reform will be dwarfed by the bill’s creation of a new cadre of reliable Democratic voters.

But if hype alone could enact a piece of legislation, the Gang of Eight bill will soon be headed to the president’s desk for signature. We’ll soon see how it does in real life.

UPDATE: The Washington Examiner’s David Drucker quotes several sources close to Boehner as saying he will under no circumstances bring an immigration bill to the floor that a majority of House Republicans opposes. Don’t know how Al Hunt’s instincts respond to such reports, but they are certainly as reliable as all the happy-talk coming from the Senate.

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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