Why Immigration Reform May Blossom In The Spring

Bill Scher

Politico headlined today that “House GOP plans no immigration vote in 2013″. However, the story itself is more equivocal, noting that “the dynamics could change. Some, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), are eager to pass something before the end of the year. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has signaled publicly that he would like to move forward in 2013 on an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.”

Furthermore, after that story ran, a “House GOP leadership aide” told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that, “We hope to move something before year’s end, but there’s no specific timetable right now.” Sargent then surmises that, “Either GOP leaders are leaking that there will be no vote, in order to quiet fears on the right while they decide what to vote on. Or they are letting it be known that they ‘hope’ to have a vote, to defer any political fallout that might come from killing reform, in the full intention of doing just that. Take your pick.”

Like many other immigration reform advocates, I’m nervous about immigration continually getting pushed to the back of the line.

There’s no guarantee that Speaker John Boehner has the courage to stand up to the anti-immigrant faction of his party today because he wants to position his party to thrive tomorrow. We’ve seen the lengths he will go to avoid forcing votes that strain his party, even though it’s important to recognize he sometimes does so we don’t succumb to paralyzing pessimism.

And unforeseen events have a way of getting in the way (Syria, shutdown, liberal opinion journalists stoking panic over HealthCare.gov, etc).

In turn, it is imperative that we consistently pressure on Republicans to act, and not allow calls for delay to go unanswered.

At the same time, we should not deem the end of the year to be the ultimate deadline for action, and give up all hope if no movement occurs by then. There is nothing magical about December 31, 2013.

In my mind, things get interesting in the spring.

Why? Because by the end of May, most states will have passed their deadlines to file primary challenges. Nearly all will pass by June. Some state primaries even will have been conducted by then.

And collecting the signatures to get on the ballot is not the kind of thing one can pull off in a few days, especially an underfunded novice candidate. If a congressperson casts a vote that suddenly enrages you in April, you’re probably not going to make it on to the ballot in May to do anything about it.

It would be greatly preferable to see the House pass something — anything — in November or December, just to get the wheels turning so a final compromise could be hammered out by the spring. But a House vote in the spring, followed by a final compromise in June or July, is not inconceivable.

It’s just cutting it real close.

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