Don't Worry About Boehner "Pullback"
Thursday morning I tweeted "Don't expect a lot of meaningful House news on immigration for 1-2 months. Just a lot of chatter calling it dead. And then not." About three hours later, Speaker John Boehner held a press conference where he seemed to put the kibbosh on immigration reform in 2014 just a week after releasing Republican "standards" outlining a surprisingly reasonable plan for immigration reform. Boehner said that immigration reform was not going to move until President Obama earned their "trust". He didn't detail what the President did that was untrustworthy (I'm guessing it rhymes with "bloblamacare") and it also begs the question of what changed between last week and Thursday where the President was trusted and then suddenly not.
Obviously there's more going on. Many in the pundit class were quick to latch on to the narrative that Boehner got too much backlash from the right wing in the party and caved. But what if he's following a script laid out ahead of time and nothing really changed in the days following the release of the Republican standards for immigration reform?
Here's my theory. Boehner does still plan on moving immigration reform in the spring and summer as previously noted. That time was picked because most GOP primaries will be finished by then or it will be too late for credible opponents to jump in that late. The hope is to avoid having to make House members take controversial votes on immigration reform in the middle of their primary campaigns when they're trying to win over far right voters. Immigration reform actually is a positive in the general campaign as poll after poll shows (such as this one yesterday from CNN) so taking it up then makes a lot of sense.
But why not just wait until the spring to bring up immigration reform and why the release of standards and a seeming pullback? I think it's because Boehner needed to go public with the Republican strategy in order to get the process moving - drafting, hearings and committee markups. That's a process that still could take several months. But he also needed to take the heat off of members of his caucus by making it seem like the GOP is only going through the motions and won't move immigration reform until some time far away. Once the timing gets better, the bills will have progressed far enough to move to the floor and over to the Senate with enough time to negotiate with the upper chamber and get the legislation finished before the end of this Congress.
I suspected this was the case, but felt it more so after I read an interview with House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who insisted to a reporter that "job will get done, but it has to be done right." And Boehner in his supposed pullback still said the issue was not over and he was going to continue talking to his own members. So in the spring when this comes back to life, don't be surprised.
Republicans still want to get this off the table and it doesn't necessarily get easier next year. But it does get easier after Republican primaries. Boehner just needed to lower the temperature on the issue in his caucus until then.