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House, Senate moving in different directions

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) had reason to smile.
Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) had reason to smile.Getty Images

By yesterday afternoon, the prospects for immigration reform in the Senate were soaring. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) formally unveiled their "border surge" plan, which Democratic negotiators were willing to accept to increase GOP support, and which pushed the head count for the overall bill higher.

Indeed, in light of the Corker/Hoeven measure, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said he's prepared to support the bipartisan bill, and soon after, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) suggested he's ready to do the same. Politicoreported, "Negotiators said as many as 15 GOP senators who were on the fence will now be inclined to vote for the landmark bill," and by the close of business, the prospect of 70+ plus Senate votes no longer seemed unrealistic.

But on the other side of Capitol Hill, a very different dynamic was unfolding, as the House killed a farm bill that House Republican leaders assumed would pass. What does this have to do with immigration? John Stanton told Rachel on the show last night that if the House GOP leadership can't even pass a farm bill, immigration may be too heavy a lift. Jonathan Bernstein made a related case yesterday.

Sure, it's possible that Republicans can manage to hang together for one [immigration] vote to get something to conference ... But overall, going along to get along -- or "Do it to save our party from humiliating embarrassment" -- doesn't seem to carry much weight with most House Republicans.

Brian Beutler is thinking along the same lines.

[The farm bill] is a very big whoops.... [I]t's tough to look at the farm bill fiasco and imagine the House passing an immigration reform bill that Dems don't carry. If that's the case, then the key to the whole immigration reform effort really is John Boehner accepting the internal consequences of just putting something similar to the gang of eight bill on the floor and getting out of the way.

This is not to suggest that the farm bill fiasco is necessarily proof that immigration will fail in the House, but rather, the demise of the farm bill offered a stark reminder that passing much of anything in the House -- other than anti-abortion bills -- is exceedingly difficult. Radicalized Republican lawmakers are simply too extreme and too unruly to be led, and more moderate Republicans are too fearful to oppose them. (edited slightly for clarity)

Which in turn offers a reminder: if the lower chamber is going to play a constructive role on immigration, Boehner will almost certainly have to rely on Democratic votes. The alternative is failure.