There is increasingly little chance that the House will consider immigration reform before the end of the year. Obama and the Democrats have pivoted from the shutdown fight, pressing their advantage to win approval of amnesty legislation. The aftermath of that fight however and another looming budget battle make that all but impossible this year.
Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has long ruled out taking up the Senate-passed Amnesty bill. House committees have been working on smaller reforms to the immigration system, taking a more targeted and deliberative approach then the Senate’s comprehensive 1,000+ page legislation. While Boehner said this week he was “hopeful” some action could be taken in the House this year, sources close to leadership cast doubt on that.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a key Boehner ally, said Wednesday the House isn’t likely to act on immigration until after resolving the upcoming budget debate. Funding for government expires on January 15th, and the nation will again hit the debt ceiling in early February.
“I don’t even think we’ll get to that point until we get these other problems solved,” Cole said.
Immigration reform is a divisive issue among conservatives. While there is general agreement reform is needed, there is widespread concern that the Senate bill would make the illegal immigration system worse. There is also broad suspicion that even if legislation contained provisions to finally secure the border, the Obama Administration would ignore them. In a worst-case scenario, the legislation could increase the number of illegal immigrants.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a prominent supporter of the Senate legislation, acknowledged these suspicions earlier this week. “The president has undermined this effort, absolutely, because of the way he has behaved over the last three weeks,” Rubio said, referring to the recent shutdown fight. “This notion that they’re going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration is much more difficult to do…because of the way the president has behaved towards his opponents over the last three weeks.”
The shutdown fight was a great disappointment for conservatives. ObamaCare was largely untouched and the national debt was increased without the usual accompanying spending cuts. In the end, conservatives came away with nothing substantive from the deal. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) have signaled they don’t intend to compromise during the upcoming negotiations, either.
Facing such difficult prospects in the budget talks, there is no way House GOP Leadership can further alienate conservatives by pushing anything that risks clearing passage of the Senate amnesty bill. Until the budget debate is resolved, the border for immigration reform is closed.