GOP Immigration Feint in the House? or Just a Faint of Heart?

Article excerpt

Wednesday's all-House-Republicans-on-deck meeting on immigration has lost its potential to generate the summer's biggest congressional news.

Caucus leadership has already concluded there's no chance a majority of the majority is back from the July Fourth recess ready to tackle the issue in anything close to a comprehensive or speedy manner.

That news was buried in the third sentence of the 15th dense paragraph of a memo that Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent out to a nearly empty Capitol on July 5. Although creating a citizenship pathway for the 11 million people who are in the United States illegally would be the most consequential change in domestic policy of the decade, and spurning the idea would be political hemlock for the GOP, the idea barely merited a passing afterthought in his discussion of the House's July legislative agenda.

Instead, the bulk of the next four weeks will be devoted to passing a trio of "drill, baby, drill" deregulatory Republican energy measures that have no chance of even a serious hearing in the Democratic Senate. That will be joined by five spending bills that are more likely to complicate than to smooth this fall's inevitable budget crisis.

There may also be time to take another run at passing the farm bill -- probably, although Cantor didn't say so, by splitting its food stamp and agricultural provisions into separate measures.

And after all of that symbolic legislating? "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," the majority leader offered.

The translation goes beyond what Speaker John A. Boehner said before the recess -- that the legislation that passed with 68 votes in the Senate would never be put to a vote in the House because it would win only a fraction of the 118 GOP votes he's demanding for any consequential measure. (That's half the Republican membership plus one, an obviously unattainable goal given that only one-third of Republican senators voted "yes" last month.)

Cantor's use of the "may" verb tense telegraphs that his team feels no compulsion to do anything at all before the summer recess, when the brightest "golden moment" for big-deal legislative achievement at the start of every presidency comes to its unofficial end.

And his statement explicitly says that no measure to move illegal immigrants toward the civic and economic mainstream would be coming to the floor this month, even if the bipartisan negotiating team of seven House members unveils its comprehensive citizenship and secure borders proposal. …