Timing is everything in politics. And House Democrats know time is running out.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) shocking loss last night has changed the calculus in Washington. For starters, vulnerable congressional Republicans once considering backing some form of immigration reform might want to pump the brakes on that idea – at least for now. Cantor lost a crimson district to a virtually unknown candidate, not least because he broadly supported certain elements of immigration reform (although he did not support blanket amnesty).
Cantor was hammered repeatedly on this issue, of course, but there were also a number of external factors that led to his defeat. In short, he was clearly out-of-touch with his constituents, had too many ties to Big Business, and took his primary opponent for granted – spending at least part of primary day... at a DC fundraiser. Unquestionably, though, the dream of a working, comprehensive immigration reform bill making its way through the federal legislature this congressional session seems wholly unlikely. Nevertheless, this isn't stopping some House Democrats from trying:
Rep. Xavier Becerra, California Democrat and chairman of the Democratic caucus, said Wednesday that Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss should spur members to act on legislation that constituents support, including immigration reform.
When asked if the Virginia Republican’s loss would stall any hope of passing immigration reform legislation reform in the House, Mr. Becerra said it should spur Congress to act on what the American people want before more members lose their seats for inaction.
“The question on immigration reform is not if we get it done but when we get it done,” he said on MSNBC.
He also said it is a message to Congress to start to work together and get things done in a more general sense.
No doubt House Democrats have lost a useful ally in Cantor. But while he is a lame-duck, he’s not actually resigning his seat (although he is stepping down from his leadership position). Might he and other retiring House Republicans, then, try to force something through before the next congressional session? After all, that's exactly what Rep. Becerra seems to be calling for here.