Bob Novak explains the reason for pessimism on an immigration reform bill: Speaker Hastert has apparently told Majority Leader Boehner that he does not want action on this issue, which splits Republicans:
Within two days last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner changed from sunny optimism about prospects for passing an immigration bill this summer to a bleak, negative outlook. The reason was that Boehner got the word from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
Boehner on Tuesday was upbeat in addressing a breakfast forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports a guest worker program. He indicated he would resolve differences between the restrictive House bill and the much more liberal Senate bill by the Fourth of July.
But at a closed luncheon Wednesday at Charlie Palmer's restaurant, attended by financial contributors to House Republicans, Boehner declared that the immigration bill was all but dead. That change followed Boehner's conversation late Tuesday with Hastert, who made clear he did not want to pursue the issue that splits the Republican Party.
I find this very surprising, and I think it can only be a tactical move. Hastert and Boehner are both well aware that with each passing day (it seems), House Republicans become more convinced of the political necessity of enacting a border security bill before the elections. Bilbray's victory in the California special election has made everyone believe that this is the most important issue out there - which it might be. So while Hastert speaks of issues that split Republicans, right now there's no issue that more strongly unites House Republicans - and the Senate is moving more in their direction each day.
Indeed, while I didn't comment on it at the time, Hastert's suggestion last week that the House hold hearings on the Senate bill can only be seen as an attempt to further weaken the Senate in discussions with the House. If Hastert wants no immigration action, his correct move is to leave the Senate bill alone. The best way to kill the process is to say that you're waiting until the Senate backs off of their bill, and forget about the matter. But instead Hastert is suggesting picking at the scab. Hearings will raise the profile of the issue - supposedly the last thing that Hastert wants - and will push the Senate to abandon the portions of their bill that the House does not like.
So I am officially disagreeing with Kate O'Beirne, Bob Novak, and... Speaker Hastert, I suppose. Hmmm... I wonder if there's a way I can do this and not look dumb...
Let's just say I predict that the House will out-wait the Senate - however long that takes - and force the Senate to consider a bill that is primarily or exclusively about border security.
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