While most Americans rank the economy and government spending as the top challenges facing the nation, the Senate last month rushed through a comprehensive immigration bill to give amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens. The effort was more about the perceived needs of the Republican Party than the nation as a whole. The swift Senate action was intended to pressure the House to pass amnesty into law. The House seems to have other ideas.
Last Friday, before Congress left for a week-long recess, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office released to GOP House members a 3-page memo detailing issues that would be on the legislative calendar when Congress returned.
The memo discussed issues related to energy, education, and government oversight. Immigration was only mentioned at the end, in a section headlined “a few additional items.” This is not how a Chamber gears up for work on a complex legislative issue.
“The House may begin consideration of the border security measures that have been passed by the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees and begin reviewing other immigration proposals,” Mr. Cantor wrote, noting that Republicans will hold an internal conference on the issue on July 10th.
Speaker Boehner has repeatedly said that the House won’t consider the Senate bill. It has been working on several pieces of legislation that cover various aspects of our immigration system. This piecemeal approach provides greater deliberation and consideration than the 1,000+ page bill approach embraced by the Senate. The public is still learning the details of the bill passed by 68 Senators last month.
The idea that Senate action would force the House’s hand was always silly. The House doesn’t simply act on the whims of Senators. Having to face voters every 2 years, the House is more sensitive to grass-roots sentiment than the Senate. Of the 14 GOP Senators voting for the Senate bill, only 3 are up for reelection next year. Obviously, all of the House members are up for reelection in 2014.
Redistricting has made House GOP members even more sensitive to the views of conservative and Tea Party activists. For the overwhelming majority of members, primary challenges are the only electoral threat they face. As conservative opposition to amnesty grows, House members will be even more reluctant to consider amnesty legislation.
So, yes, Cantor says the House “may begin consideration” of border security and “other immigration proposals.” I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, though.