Immigration Reform 2013: Immigration Bill is Dead in the 113th Congress

On April 29, I wrote that if the House of Representatives did not move forward with a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that could be reconciled in conference with the Senate bill, immigration reform in this Congress would be dead.

Given statements on Thursday by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), there will not be immigration reform before the 2014 midterm elections.

The statement by Boehner appears to indicate that he will have whatever immigration reform legislation is developed to move through the committee process. This means the fate of any bill will be in the hands of Goodlatte. Goolatte has already stated he prefers a piecemeal approach.

The House bipartisan group of eight still has to work out some issues. A member of the group, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), said he will draft his own bill if the group cannot reach agreement. While the Senate clearly showed it is willing to put partisanship aside to get immigration reform done, the House appears to be digging in its partisan heals.

In his statement, Boehner said, “I’ve gotta say there are people on both sides of the aisle who have done their best to try to undermine their ability to get to an agreement.”

Instead of committing to work towards a bipartisan bill, the statement assured a GOP-only bill will be put forward. Rep. Mario Dias-Balart (R-Fla.) another member of the group working on the bill went on to blame House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif). Diaz-Balart blamed objections from Pelosi for the group's problems and called for the president to call Pelosi so the bill can be prepared.

There is rightful concern that the House will be under immense pressure to pass the Senate bill once it clears the full Senate. Without a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can be reconciled in conference, the GOP will have to either pass the Senate bill or consider how it will deal with its probable demise in the mid-term elections.

The GOP has been vocal since November about its need to be more welcoming and attract Hispanic voters. Taking the same approach as the Senate towards immigration reform would give them a chance. From the statements and actions today, that appears to be more empty political rhetoric.

Without bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, the GOP will not gain any Hispanic votes. It could possibly lose some. It could also lose key business backing especially from the moneyed high tech sector. The continued partisanship could also cost some moderate votes. Moderates will see the Democrats as willing to compromise and the Republicans as obstacles towards progress.

As Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said several times during the Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up, now is the best chance we have to fix the broken immigration system. It looks like House leadership is willing to let this chance slip by. They are betting the party’s future and they could very well lose the bet.