Breaking news from the Hill:
BREAKING!! Fox's @MikeEmanuelFOX says he's got hot tip - SpkrBoehner will "likely" PULL immigration reform from House agenda this year— Shannon Bream (@ShannonBream) February 6, 2014
Boehner had reportedly been intent on bringing some form of reform package to the floor this year, but that was never entirely clear. He equivocated at a recent GOP retreat, and now it looks like he's backing off. Conservatives within his caucus have been grumbling bitterly about the timing, with at least one member suggesting that Boehner's speakership could be in jeopardy if he moved forward. I rather doubt Boehner was swayed by that sort of internecine saber-rattling, but he apparently concluded that the fastest way to crack up a relatively unified party ahead of what should be a very good election cycle would be to schedule this political earthquake before November. Righty supporters and opponents of reform alike have urged Republicans to avoid this unforced error. If these reports are accurate, leadership seems to have listened.
Bear in mind that the Speaker's apparently had trouble rustling up the votes to make debt ceiling-related demands on Keystone and Obamacare bailouts -- areas of broad consensus within the party (and the country); immigration, or "amnesty," would be a battle royale he didn't need, and perhaps couldn't win. So pin the blame on Obama, and wait 'til next year. How does the president factor into this? Didn't he just say he was open to a bill framed around House Republicans' statement of principles -- which really only contained one significant difference from the Senate bill? Yes, but what Boehner would argue is that rank-and-file members who may be willing to support some form of comprehensive approach to the issue have cold feet because they don't trust this president to enforce any law they may pass. There's plenty of precedent to justify those fears, too, despite what the predictable MSNBC jackals might say. Incidentally, the back-bencher who's been making noises about Boehner's gavel isn't opposed to all reform. In fact, he's put forward a strong conservative alternative to the Senate legislation, which most conservatives find unacceptable. And he's an advocate of taking a stab at the immigration issue early in 2015, particularly if Republicans win back the Senate:
If President Obama can prove he is serious about enforcing the law, immigration reform should be “one of the first things” Republicans take up . . . in 2015, Representative Raul Labrador (R., Idaho) said Wednesday. “I think it’s a mistake for us to have an internal battle in the Republican party this year about immigration reform,” he said. ”I do think we need to address the issue, and I do think when we take back the Senate in 2014 one of the first things we should do next year after we deal with certain economic issues, I think we should address the immigration-reform issue. The president has a year to prove to us that he’s willing to actually enforce the law.” Among House Republicans, Labrador said, there was “overwhelming support for the idea of doing nothing this year” on immigration, even among those who may agree with the principles outlined by House leadership at last week’s retreat in Cambridge, Md.
So if you're dead-set against any form of comprehensive reform, you have a year to gird your loins for a highly likely 2015 push. If Republicans take the Senate, any resulting bill will probably look more like the House principles than the Senate document. If Democrats maintain control, you'd better believe that many within the GOP will be eager to make a gesture of goodwill toward Latino voters ahead of the next presidential cycle.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography