What the Farm Bill Means for Immigration

Recently, I wrote about “What the Farm Bill says about immigration in the House.” I’ve already linked to Greg, who had a similar view, and there were others, too.

But Ezra Klein has a bit of a counterintuitive view:

I’ll admit it: I don’t know what the collapse of the farm bill portends for immigration reform. But I suspect the answer is: not much.
Will immigration go the same way? Perhaps. But it’s not a sure thing, either. There’s not going to be an immigration bill that all House Republicans are happy with. And they’re not going to pass an immigration bill because Boehner begs and pleads. But they might, in the end, pass an immigration bill — or allow one to be passed — because they trust the basic strategy.

That’s not just the difference between immigration and the farm bill. It’s the difference between immigration and everything. Washington is acting surprised that Boehner can’t control his members. But we knew that already — remember Plan B? If you’re surprised that the House is a mess, you simply haven’t been paying attention.

I think there are a few quick points to be made here.

1. He’s correct that we’re not getting new information here. We knew “the House is a mess.” All we had here is yet another example. So in that sense, it’s fair to say that close observers of the House don’t really have anything new to say after the farm bill. It’s less “What the Farm Bill says about immigration in the House” than “What the Farm Bill says about immigration in the House — if you were just tuning in.” Of course, lots of people are just tuning in!

2.  I don’t think it’s correct to say that there’s a “difference between immigration and everything.” Specifically, I don’t think it’s correct to say that House Republicans don’t care about passing a farm bill. Yes, they may be post-policy, but the farm bill? I would think that a lot of them want that to pass.

3. Which gets to an important point: it’s one thing to say, as I’ve been saying that it may be the case on immigration that mainstream conservatives want the bill to pass but without their votes; it’s another thing to solve that coordination problem. The same applies if their goal is to get something to committee and then let it die; there’s still a coordination problem in actually getting that done.

4. By the way: yesterday’s fiasco notwithstanding, there’s still every possibility that we’ll still get a farm bill this year. It wouldn’t be the first time something collapsed on the floor only to be revived.

5. To the extent that the farm bill and immigration have any causal pull on each other, it may well be the other way around: if Boehner thinks he’s eventually going to have to pass the Senate bill on immigration with mostly Democratic votes, he may be more reluctant to pass the Senate farm bill the same way. That’s assuming the Senate version of the farm bill wouldn’t get bipartisan majorities; it receive a fair number of Republican votes in the Senate, but short of a majority.

And once again: I still have no idea what House Republicans actually want to do on immigration. They may well want to kill it. We’ll just have to see.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.