It's long been clear that the fate of comprehensive immigration reform is in House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) hands. While Senate passage is not yet assured, it is likely -- even anti-immigration senators expect it to pass -- and attention has already turned to the bipartisan bill's prospects in the lower chamber.
There are a few relevant angles to this, but arguably the most salient is whether the House Speaker is prepared to rely on Democratic votes to pass immigration reform, even over the objections of most of his majority caucus. The Washington Examiner's David Drucker reported yesterday that this is a step Boehner will not take.
House Speaker John Boehner is not going to bring a comprehensive immigration-reform plan to the floor if a majority of Republicans don't support it, sources familiar with his plans said. "No way in hell," is how several described the chances of the speaker acting on such a proposal without a majority of his majority behind him.
A few hours later, the Associated Press published a report saying largely the opposite.
Some lawmakers say Boehner might allow a far-reaching immigration bill to pass the House even if most Republicans oppose it, with Democrats providing most of the votes. Boehner has chosen that "minority of the majority" route on some less consequential issues.
So, which is it? Will Boehner honor the entirely made-up "Hastert Rule" he's been willing to ignore on occasion, even if it kills the legislation, or will he want to get a bill done?
I'm leaning towards the latter.
It's safe to say the Speaker wants to pass immigration reform; he's said so publicly many times. It's also safe to say Boehner realizes it's in his party's long-term interests to get this legislation finished, even if many of his own caucus allies disagree.
So why not just ignore the chatter, rely on House Dems, and pass the bill? Because there's a chance he'd face a revolt that would end his career.
With conflicting reports as to whether Speaker John Boehner will let the House vote on a reform bill even if the majority of Republicans don't support it, [Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California] argued that Boehner "should be removed as speaker" if he allows such a bill to reach the floor over his supposed "betrayal" of Republicans and the American people.
On the surface, that seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? If Boehner moves on the bipartisan Senate bill, over the objections of most House Republicans, some of his members would try to take his gavel away.
And while time will obviously tell, I remain skeptical that this is a realistic scenario. Plenty of House Republicans will vote against immigration reform, while secretly hoping it passes -- they want to get this done (it's ultimately in the party's best interests), but don't want to be on record supporting it (the rabid GOP base will want to punish the bill's supporters). Boehner can make this "vote no, hope yes" caucus quite happy, not angry, by allowing the bill to pass with largely Democratic support.
If I'm wrong, and Boehner is too scared of the heat, then immigration reform will very likely die at the hands of House Republican opponents. But the chess match is really just getting started in earnest, and the path to success remains relatively clear.