Counting On False Equivalency

Nobody can accuse WaPo’s Greg Sargent of failing to keep hope alive on the possibility that comprehensive immigration reform can see the light of day in this Congress. Greg has been very clear in noting throughout the debate that legislation can be enacted if John Boehner chooses to let it happen via a floor vote on a bill (similar to the Senate-passed bill) that most House Democrats and a significant minority of Republicans would support. And he’s faithfully noted all the reasons Republicans might go along, from business-community pressure to the strategic need to avoid permanent damage with Latino voters to the simple desire to get the issue “off the table” and out of the news.

But today Greg pays close attention to some town hall commentary from House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlette, and figures he might have heard the party-line rationale for doing nothing while avoiding blame:

“Will the Senate agree to them [House provisions}? I don’t know,” Goodlatte said. “But I don’t think Republicans in the House … should back away from setting forth the right way to do things.”

“Even if it doesn’t go all the way through to be signed by this president — because I have a hard time, like you do, envisioning him signing some of those things — it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least show the American people that we are interested in solving this very serious problem that we have in our country,” he added later….

Ultimately, the fate of immigration reform rests in the hands of John Boehner and the GOP leadership. But Goodlatte will play an important role in influencing the debate inside the GOP caucus. Right now, some advocates think GOP leaders — particularly Paul Ryan and even Boehner to some degree — want to find a way to get to comprehensive reform. But others think they are merely making nice noises designed to bide their time, giving themselves cover to let reform die later while doing whatever they can to minimize the blame for it amid a bout of finger-pointing by both sides. Goodlatte’s comments show us what the latter approach could end up looking like.

Yep. I’ve feared all along that House Republican leaders thought the only threshold they needed to cross was to look serious about immigration reform and “address” it via legislation the Senate could not accept. The complexity of the issue, and most of all the tendency of the MSM to blame both sides for every “impasse,” would do the rest in mitigating the partisan damage GOPers would suffer from killing comprehensive reform. I don’t think this cynical strategy is going to fool Latino voters, but it might be enough to get Republican leaders out of the dilemma they are currently in and onto the 2014 campaign trail, and that’s probably what they most care about right now.

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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.