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August 14, 2013 4:40 PM “Nyet!” Said the Commissar

By Ed Kilgore

Many supporters of comprehensive immigration reform have been nursing a faint but very real hope (I expressed it myself last week) that conservatives wrangling with each other and their Members of Congress over how to functionally repeal Obamacare and whether to crash the government or the global economy might forget to keep up the heat to kill the immigration bill. And indeed, it’s been widely noticed that about the only people talking about immigration to Members on recess are supporters of reform. So might not something good happen in the fall in the House via a conference report that largely adopts the Senate’s approach and could pass with the vast majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans?

The Editors of National Review want us all to know they’re on to this plot, and they’re going to try very hard to extract a promise from John Boehner that it just won’t happen:

Incremental fixes to the immigration system make sense on the merits, and House Republicans understandably want to show that they favor their own set of reforms rather than oppose anything and everything. But incremental bills are destructive if their ultimate purpose is to get to a conference committee that would bless a version of the Gang of Eight bill. House leadership aides pooh-pooh the possibility of a conference committee. Well, then, there is a simple way to allay our fears and those of other opponents of the Gang of Eight — for Speaker Boehner to make a blood-oath commitment to oppose any conference committee.

It’s a good measure of the trust in which these folks hold their Speaker that (a) they are requiring a “blood oath” and (b) it involves not even tempting fate by entering into a House-Senate conference. I mean, Boehner could just as easily pledge to hang tough in conference, or submit the conference report to his Caucus and then comply with the Hastert Rule and keep it off the floor if a majority doesn’t support it. But no—or given the peremptory, commissar tone of the communication, maybe it should be “Nyet!”—he’s not supposed to even Go There. Now that NR has put the order out there, it will be interesting to see if other conservative lustily roar their approval and force Boehner at least to deal with it.

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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