I’ve written many times that it would be good policy and good politics to get immigration reform done. The question is when to do it.
Many Republicans don’t think they need immigration reform to have a very good 2014, believing that Obamacare and this week’s Congressional Budget Office report have given them enough ammunition.
Smart strategists can make the case for moving on reform in 2014 or 2015. On the one hand, there is no doubt that Democrats and the president are semi-desperate to make a deal. They need some accomplishment before the midterms, and they want to get off the topic of Obamacare. It stands to reason that the GOP could get the best deal now.
But if Republicans wait until next year, they may hold a Senate majority and the bill could be even more to their liking. And if a nonstop focus on Obamacare provides the best chance of taking the Senate, it makes sense to wait.
I don’t think it is more treacherous for 2016 contenders if the deal is made next year. Sen. John McCain championed immigration reform in 2007 and was the party’s presidential nominee in 2008. Moreover, it’s not as if the potential GOP presidential candidates haven’t made their positions clear. Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have all cast votes; most governors have made clear they favor some sort of earned citizenship or legalization. No one will be able to hide his position.
As for the threat that the president may take unilateral action, executive action is more of a problem for the president than Republicans. The GOP might not mind the president demonstrating his contempt for the Constitution by making up laws; what better way to get the conservative base riled up?
It would be worthwhile for House Speaker John Boehner to make a clear promise that he will bring up a bill either this year or next along the principles outlined; as with Obamacare, the GOP should show voters it has alternatives, even if a concrete bill isn’t signed into law.
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