RNC vs. House Republicans over Immigration

Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus may claim that there is a "consensus" in his party for "comprehensive" immigration reform, but House Republicans are publicly committed to avoiding the large, "comprehensive" approach that saw the Senate pass an immigration bill over a thousand pages long.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has already indicated that the House of Representatives will adopt a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, beginning with legislation that is most urgent and that enjoys the widest public support, and moving on to more contentious issues.

The problem with a "comprehensive" approach is that it locks Republicans into an unequal trade-off between border security, which is a necessary function of government, and a so-called "path to citizenship" for illegal aliens, which is a discretionary policy. Many voters believe that border security should come first.

There are three advantages to a step-by-step approach. First, incremental steps make better policy. Second, the House can avoid the stigma of a "do-nothing" Congress by passing something, even if it cannot pass everything. And third, up-or-down votes on separate bills will shift the political burden to Democrats, who are keen to avoid having to make choices on individual policies within the Senate's "comprehensive" package.

The contradiction between Priebus's remarks and Goodlatte's remarks indicate that GOP strategy on immigration is in flux, and that proponents of an immigration bill have not settled on a common message.


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