Remember earlier this year when House Republicans said they would deal with immigration reform once the primaries were over? Well, according to The Wall Street Journal, House Speaker John Boehner told a group of donors that they'll pass bills addressing the issue this summer.
At a fundraiser in Las Vegas last month, Boehner told a group that he was "hellbent on getting this done this year," as several participants confirmed to the Journal's Laura Meckler. Another member of the House, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, told a business group in Silicon Valley that he was optimistic about getting something done. Goodlatte suggested that the House would consider five to seven bills that an aide to another representative said would be ready to go in June or July.
There is a very good chance that Boehner was telling donors what they want to hear. The split in the Republican Party is largely between donors and established institutions — who favor moderate policy moves including immigration reform aimed at securing Latino votes for future elections — and the far-right activist base, which supports much stronger restrictions on immigration, political realities notwithstanding. In other words, Boehner might have been telling the donors what they want to hear.
But a timeline of how 2014 has evolved for the GOP suggests that the new report is simply a reversion to form.
- January 27: The post-primary plan emerges. Meckler also revealed the "wait it out" strategy earlier this year. According to that report, House Republicans wanted to pass immigration reform, but didn't want to lose their jobs. So they developed a plan that involved waiting until at-risk members got past their Republican party primaries — meaning they didn't need to worry about candidates motivating the activist base to vote against them — and then pass a package of reform measures.
- January 28: The plan shapes up. House Republicans went on a three-day retreat in Maryland to discuss the components of those bills. The debate, as always, was how to meet the needs of the Latino and immigrant communities while not giving the far-right the chance to say they were granting "amnesty" to people who immigrated without following the legal process.
Read the GOP's principles for immigration reform: pic.twitter.com/Uc9g1sWk3g— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) January 30, 2014
- January 30: Republicans list their priorities. At the end of the retreat, the party released a list of priorities for any reform packages. Leading the list (which is at right) was border security. But the proposals included measures that would likely meet the needs of those looking for actual reform.
- February 7: Boehner's bluff. And then either 1) the plan fell apart or 2) Boehner commenced Operation Ignore This Until Summer. At his weekly press conference, he told reporters that Obama couldn't be trusted and reform would be "difficult." This was widely interpreted as a declaration that the party would give up on the idea. I argued that it was a bluff in line with the January 27 plan. [Sound of horn tooting.]
- April 16: Obama fights with Cantor. Earlier this week, Obama apparently irritated House Republicans with a statement challenging them to act on immigration reform. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor used the moment to repeat Boehner's criticism of Obama — but also indicated that the House wanted Obama to work with them on the issue. They've said this before, many times, but Cantor's statement was not "we will do nothing," as Boehner's was interpreted to mean.
Predicting what House Republicans will do is a fool's errand; Boehner himself has at times over the past two years seemed as though he's not sure what they'll end up doing. But the new Journal report fits squarely into a plan announced in January that lets Republicans keep donors happy and keep their jobs. As always, we will see. But for immigration reform advocates, there's new reason for optimism.