Do You Believe In Magic?

Well, to read most political coverage today, the fix is in on immigration reform. Harry Reid has incorporated the Corker-Hoeven “border patrol surge” amendment (just unveiled late today, with some “minor issues” yet to be resolved) into the underlying Gang of Eight bill, for which he plans to hold a final vote next week. And thus the media narrative has moved back from the possibility of a disaster in the Senate to the earlier optimistic talk about getting upwards of 70 votes.

We’ll see. But the bigger issue, which even immigration optimists conceded, is whether the alleged “momentum” the bill now seems to have regained. or the threats we will hear from the holdout GOP senators, will have a larger tangible impact on House Republicans and their increasingly shaky leader, John Boehner.

Keep in mind that even the “breakthrough” we are seeing in the Senate will leave a comfortable majority of Republican senators voting “no.” Attention will then shift to the House Judiciary Committee, where a bill (or series of bills) totally unacceptable to Democrats will slowly move towards floor, amidst lusty cheers from conservative activists–even those who have grudgingly supported or ignored the bill moving towards passage in the Senate. So long as Boehner sticks to his many private and public assurances of adherence to the Hastert Rule, a final resolution of the impasse between comprehensive reform and efforts to lay land mines along the path to citizenship remains an improbable proposition.

So that leaves us with the concern I expressed this morning in connection with Ezra Klein’s observation that the case for optimism on immigration reform depends on believing this is an issue unlike any other–a “unicorn,” which will scamper across the finish line, well, because it must.

So while it’s a very good thing that immigration reform still appears likely to survive the Senate, with a “militarized border” (as Lindsey Graham boasted) the pound of flesh obtained by conservatives, the question remains for those who assume it will be an easy ride now: Do you believe in magic?

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.