Perhaps the one thing that’s certain about the House of Representatives and immigration is that the bill that just passed the Senate could never, ever pass the House. Indeed, it’s difficult to overstate how little regard Republicans there have for it, even with the border-security amendment added by Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven.“Just like all the senators, I haven’t read it yet,” quips Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. The House should “fold it up into a paper airplane and throw it out the window. Oh, is that not the right answer?” jokes Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “The Senate is, at this point, irrelevant,” observes Representative Ted Poe of Texas, the chairman of the House immigration caucus.
“If you think that the House is going to cave and bring up the Senate bill,” Representative Devin Nunes of California says, “that is idiotic. Anyone who pushes that is just ultimately trying to kill immigration reform.”
Chief deputy whip Peter Roskam of Illinois is certain that the House would never take up the Gang of 8’s bill in its present form. “It just won’t happen. It is a pipe dream to think that that bill is going to the floor and be voted on,” he said at a breakfast Thursday hosted by National Review.
“Do we still have a bicameral government?” wonders Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the chairman of the immigration subcommittee. “You’re a smart guy. Let’s walk through this together. We do not have a unicameral system of government. We can assume the framers did that on purpose. And we can assume they did it for a reason. What do you think the reason is?” Gowdy asks.
You might think Corker-Hoeven, with its billions of dollars to bolster border security, would be receiving a warm welcome in the House. You would be wrong. “The Corker-Hoeven amendment is terrible,” says Representative John Fleming, a top immigration hawk.
Representative Michael Grimm, who represents a purple Staten Island district in New York, pans it, too. “There’s no triggers,” he says. “More work on the border is good but it doesn’t solve all the problems with that bill,” says House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.
The single biggest criticism about the Senate bill is on its relatively toothless trigger structure. Almost all House Republicans say they want legislation that demonstrably enforces the law before legalization is given to millions of illegal immigrants. The Senate bill legalizes everyone at the start and then includes relatively soft triggers on enforcement in order for the path to citizenship to commence.
Crucially, as the months have passed since Election Day, the sense of Republican panic that drove a lot of the early progress on immigration is fading.
“I think this is my biggest frustration with the Republican party right now, is that we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off thinking that we have to do this for political reasons,” Representative Raúl Labrador of Idaho told reporters at an event Wendesday. “We don’t have to do this for political reasons. . . . If we start pandering and giving out goodies to people, then we’re going to get into a bidding war with the Democratic party. And if we get into a bidding war, we always lose, because the Democrats are always more willing to give goodies to certain groups than we are.”
If you’re rooting for the Senate bill, about the best you’ll get out of a Republican member of the House is that it does create some pressure for the House to pass its own bill, which probably won’t include a path to citizenship.