4 Ways Amnesty is So Not Dead

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Just Resting: The otherwise estimable Conn Carroll reacted to the news of Obama’s latest pivot-to-the-economy with this tweet:

 “White House basically admitting immigration reform is dead”

That is so not the case, alas. “Comprehensive” immigration reform might well die–especially if average voters oppose it to their Congresspersons’ faces in the crucial August Recess War. But if it dies it won’t be because of the four developments currently being billed in the press as harbingers of its doom:

1) Obama is focusing on other issues: He’s pivoting to the economy, giving Castro-length addresses on income inequality! So? If he gave speeches on immigration, that would only alienate Republican legislators and focus public attention on a proposal a vocal plurality of  voters in many constituencies doesn’t like (and which, it happens, would increase income inequality).  By “pivoting,” Obama tamps down the immigration-related anger Republicans will face when they go home in August. In the meantime, the GOP’s donor-driven insiders can quietly do his work for him. Obama’s doing exactly what he’d do if he still intended to pass an amnesty/legalization bill. Which he does.

2) The House is pursuing a “piecemeal” approach: Scheduling a vote on the massive “Gang of 8” Senate bill would cause grassroots opposition to peak. Like Obama’s pivot, a go-slow, piecemeal approach focusing on smaller-bore bills, as announced by Speaker Boehner, calms everyone down.  The ostentatious White House condemnation of Boehner’s approach, and Republican return fire, is almost certainly a semi-staged fight of the WWE-Kabuki variety. Both sides know the Democrats are quite  happy with a piecemeal process, because …

3) It’s only a bunch of little bills! Any one of these little bills (on border security, or a limited “DREAM” amnesty) could–and probably would–trigger a conference with Harry Reid’s Senate, out of which would likely emerge a big legalization bill. “Piecemeal” is just a quieter, more effective way for Boehner to get to that place.  Once a “comprehensive” amnesty bill came out of conference, it could become law if a) Boehner broke his promise not to bring it to the floor unless it was supported by a majority of Republicans (the so-called Hastert Rule) or, more likely, b) it managed to get Hastert-level GOP support, perhaps because it stopped short of guaranteeing illegal immigrants citizenship–a concession which Dems would make seem significant by complaining loudly, in another bit of Kabuki.

4)  Republicans are focusing on Obamacare: Again, this gives their conservative constituents something other than immigration to get angry about (a “squirrel,” as it is formally known). GOP politicians get to rant and posture, gaining valuable  tough-on-Obama points they can then cash in if they cave on immigration. (This strategy might well backfire if the GOPs anti-Obamacare initiatives fail in humiliating fashion–leaving Republicans unenthusiastic about giving Obama an additional “win” on immigration. But that danger will be avoided if all the anti-Obamacare talk mysteriously stops once the August recess ends. Want to bet that’s what happens?)

Mickey Kaus