Kate O'Beirne over at the Corner suggests that the smart money is now against an immigration bill being completed before the midterms. I think that's much too pessimistic. First, her post:
Immigration-Reform Buzz [Kate O'Beirne]
It seems that this week the smart money is on no reform bill at all before the election. The Senate is preparing for a conference while the House is not. Opponents of the McCain/Kennedy/Hagel/Martinez legislation see the Senate conferees as stacked in favor of the bill, with only 4 of the 14 Republican conferees having voted with a a majority of the GOP caucus on key conservative amendments. House Republicans seem more convinced than ever that being seen as compromising at all with the fatally flawed Senate bill is bad politics.
Posted at 3:41 PM
Kate may be right that the Senate conferees are unfriendly to the House border enforcement approach. But that's not the end of the story. First off, the Senate leadership realizes that the 'earned legalization' provisions cause major problems in the House, and will not pass. The majority of Republican Senators would be happy with a border-enforcement-only bill. The question is whether they can get one.
Can the Republicans in the Senate 'roll' their conferees? Maybe so. But more importantly, if they can't, there are other things that can be done. The Senate leadership could call for a vote on the House bill, for example. Or the House could attach its border enforcement bill to an appropriations bill (such as the Defense Appropriations) - which the Senate could not ignore. This move would give the Senate leadership a clear way around their conferees, if they wanted one. The Senate could simply adopt the border enforcement provisions included in the House, or a new set of conferees - on the appropriations bill - could accept them and include them in the appropriations conference report.
This second strategy would hold a great attraction for House Republicans - it would force House Democrats to vote again on the Republican border enforcement bill. When it was first voted on last year, only 36 House Democrats voted for it, while just 17 Republicans voted against. If it were come to a vote again, you can bet on it getting more than 36 Democratic votes, given how the ground has shifted in the last few months. That would add some more division to a House Democratic caucus that already has more than its share.
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