Speaker Boehner has suggested that the House will not act this year on immigration reform. There are serious political costs on both sides of the equation. But the costs of acting seem to outweigh the costs of not acting. From a purely political standpoint, it made sense for Boehner to punt.
First, business does not have a unified front. Though NFIB broadly supports immigration reform, it had problems with the Senate bill.
And among groups that support reform, immigration isn’t necessarily their top issue. Even if immigration reform fizzles this year, the US Chamber of Commerce is still going to back Republicans.
Second, support for immigration reform would probably not bring significant benefits to Republicans in the short term. Hispanics aren’t single-issue voters. And on a broad range of issues, they tend to side with Democrats, not Republicans. Yes, in the long run, Republicans have to do better among Hispanics. But reelection candidates have a time horizon that stops on November 4, 2014. They can’t afford to worry about what will happen to other Republicans in future years.
Third, there would be a significant political cost to moving immigration reform. It would lead to bitter debates within the party and could raise the risk that some members could have trouble in primaries. Most of all, it would eclipse stories about Obamacare problems. Why step on your own best lines?
Why is there so much GOP opposition? Obviously, the GOP base voters are deeply skeptical of what they regard as "amnesty." And Republicans at all levels are deeply skeptical of President Obama himself. Speaker Boehner says:
And frankly, one of the biggest obstacles we face is the one of trust.
The American people, including many of our members, don’t trust that the reform we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be.
The president seems to change the health care law on a whim, whenever he likes.
Now, he is running around the country telling everyone he’s going to keep acting on his own. He keeps talking about his phone and his pen.
And he’s feeding more distrust about whether he is committed to the rule of law.
Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.
It’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”