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September 09, 2013 4:10 PM Excuses

By Ed Kilgore

While appearing on KCRW’s To the Point a bit earlier today, I was asked about the impact of the Syria situation on all the other stuff Congress is supposed to be doing, or undoing, between now and the end of the year. It was hard not to laugh at the suggestion from a Republican guest that the GOP would still find a way to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation, though perhaps not until after key 2014 GOP primaries.

Michael Shear and Julia Preston have a piece in the New York Times today discussing the timetable for action (or inaction) on immigration, particularly as contrasted with the renewed expectations of reform advocates (based on their impressive lobbying during the August recess) that something would happen this year:

In the House, where many Republicans view an overhaul bill passed by the Senate as a federal juggernaut that is too kind to immigrant lawbreakers, the legislative summer recess has done little to stoke enthusiasm for immediate action. Senior Republican aides in the House say immigration is at the back of the line, and unlikely to come up for months.
The prospect of a delay is generating frustration among supporters of the legislation, who felt emboldened by a summer in which conservative opposition in House districts largely fizzled and immigrant groups seized the chance to lobby lawmakers on their home turf.

Truth is the scenario whereby the House would somehow pass or allow a vote on or entertain a conference report similar to the Senate-passed bill, always an extremely remote contingency, began to vanish even before the Syria crisis erupted, as the House GOP leadership reached another crisis-of-confidence point with conservatives demanding a “defund Obamacare” strategy deploying the threat or reality of a government shutdown. But now Syria provides an excuse for doing nothing—an excuse, moreover, that can be blamed on Barack Obama. And even pro-immigration-reform Republicans might well be relieved at this trapdoor opening, since any action in the House on immigration would have produced a nasty piece of legislative work that not only would be irreconcilable with the Senate-passed bill but would remind Latinos exactly what the GOP thought of them.

Sure, it’s still theoretically possible John Boehner will decide to stab House conservatives in the back by allowing Democrats and a minority of Republicans to pass a Senate-like bill. But the massive misdirection and theatrics that would have to accompany that “betrayal”—particularly if it comes on the heels of a “betrayal” on fiscal issues and/or a farm bill—will take time the dysfunctional House just doesn’t have.

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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