How About Plan C?

The latest reporting suggests House Speaker John Boehner thinks a bit of tweaking will save his border bill — after it was (embarrassingly) pulled from the floor Thursday due to lack of majority support. Washington Examiner‘s Susan Ferrechio tweets:

Sounds like original DACA** language in standalone bill and tightening of asylum language will get this border bill passed tomorrow I’m told.

Let’s assume that returning to the original, undiluted Cruz/Blackburn anti-DACA language will restore that purely symbolic, doomed measure to its former purely symbolic, doomed glory. That still leaves Boehner’s bill with two crippling defects:

1) Because it changes a 2008 immigration law, it opens up the possibility of a conference with the Senate on other immigration policy bills, giving the moribund push for the Senate’s “comprehensive” immigration reform new potential life. *** (Even if there is no formal conference with the Senate’s “Gang of 8” bill, Boehner’s border legislation puts Democrats in a position to ask for something amnesty-like in exchange for agreeing to amend the 2008 law); and

2) It changes that 2008 law in multiple ways that might make rapidly repatriating non-qualifying Central American and Mexican migrants more difficult. Tweaking one or two of its provisions won’t necessarily produce a net positive result.

Plus, what’s the rush? The Senate has killed its own border bill. Even if the House now passes something, positive Senate action before September is unlikely.

There is an alternative for Republicans worried about “doing nothing” about the border before they head home. That’s to drop all the risky and disputed policy provisions in the bill, making it a “clean,” temporary money bill giving the Obama administration the temporary stopgap funding it says it needs. **** What would happen if Republicans went to this Plan C? Well, Democrats would initially exult, at least in public — the plan would give them what they wanted, after all — namely money without a change in the 2008 “Wilberforce” law (that Obama, somewhat questionably, blames for the border surge). But a Wilberforce change wasn’t likely to get through the Senate anyway (though it isn’t doomed the way attempting to block DACA is doomed).

And by the same token Democrats and Obama — and maybe even the press — would be unable to blame Republicans for not giving them what they wanted (or  for doing nothing). The Senate might pass the “clean” bill or not, but the onus would shift squarely to Obama and the Democrats to stop the surge. That would likely mean a terrible August for the Dems, given the polls and the likely persistence of the border surge. More important, Republicans wouldn’t be calling on the Democrats (including Harry Reid) to approve something (i.e. Wilberforce changes) that they could ask something in return for.  Again, Democrats would be getting what they say they want — you can’t demand something in exchange for what you want.  Or if you demand it, you are unlikely to have much leverage.

It’s lose-win-win-win for the GOP. The press could even resume saying nice things about incoming Republican House whip Steve Scalise, at least for another month or two. Let the source-greasing continue!


** — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is President Obama’s executive de facto amnesty of so-called DREAMers brought illegally to this country when minors. Conservatives blame it, in part, for inducing the current Texas border migrant surge and are seeking to block it by means of legislation written by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Marsha Blackburn.  Their original bill was replaced with watered-down language for the vote yesterday. There is talk that the GOP leadership may restore the original text. Hey, this is almost a Vox card.

*** — This problem afflicts even anti-amnesty stalwart Rep. Steve King’s proposed compromise border plan.

**** — They can (and should) denounce DACA, of course — Wilberforce too —  plot their reform, and make an issue of Obama’s actions in the coming elections,  emphasizing that if voters agree they need to elect more like-minded Republicans (i.e. not more Jeb Bushes and Paul Ryans). That should be a powerful appeal.