Is the Clock Running Down on Immigration Reform?

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Over at National Journal, Fawn Johnson argues that immigration reform is probably dead. We just don’t know it yet. The problem, she says, is the legislative calendar. The Senate will probably finish up its work shortly, but:

After senators get the bill done — probably in time to make their weekend barbeques — they have a weeklong July 4 break. And then they get to wait for colleagues on the other side of the Capitol who will have four weeks — four weeks — to deliberate before Congress takes off for an even lengthier recess in August.

….[This is] the month in which legislation dies. The last time the Senate passed a major immigration bill in 2006, House Republicans used the August recess to kill it by staging a series of hearings around the country that did nothing but rile up conservatives against it.

….When lawmakers return to the Capitol in September, they will be facing another financial crisis as they debate raising the country’s debt ceiling. The four- to six-week countdown toward extreme limitations on government payments to Social Security or military operations will do two things: It will suck all the life out of any deliberative legislative effort, immigration included, and it will polarize the political parties. It will be far from fertile ground for the biggest immigration overhaul in 30 years.

I still think this depends entirely on the House leadership. If they decide they want to pass immigration reform and get it off the table for good, they can do it in four weeks. If they don’t want to, they can pretty easily fritter away the time. So we’re back to square one: do Republican leaders desperately want to put this whole thing behind them, regardless of the howling from the tea partiers, or do they care more about the backlash from their conservative white base than they do about picking up Hispanic votes in 2016? That’s always been the question, and it still is. The calendar is just another tool they can use to work their will.

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