There Will Be No Discharge Petition

Scared RepublicansHave you noticed the change in coverage today about immigration reform? I sure have: all those people who were so optimistic that somehow the House would take up the “gang of eight” immigration bill are strangely silent. And now a lot of people are coming out and saying what I’ve been saying, “Why would the Republicans pass immigration reform?” What’s more, with the “good news” that Republicans can greatly limit the voting rights of Democratic voters, there is less reason than ever to reach out to all those Obama voters.

Still, there has been one thing that I thought held out some degree of hope: the discharge petition. If the Democrats could get just 17 Republicans to join them, they could force the bill onto the floor for a vote. It is certainly true that there are at least 17 House Republicans who want to see immigration reform pass. But I didn’t think this was likely. As I wrote yesterday, “There would be hell to pay by Republicans who signed it.”

Today, Brian Beutler over at Talking Points Memo laid out the case for why this won’t happen, Discharge The Immigration Bill? Don’t Hold Your Breath. Basically, he made the same argument that I did, but in more detail. For example, he noted that even if the Republican leadership gave the nod to members to signs the discharge petition, they would still face external consequences. I would go further. Boehner clearly cares about keeping his job. If he didn’t punish those disloyal Republicans, that might cause him to lose his speakership.

But the main argument that Beutler made is that allowing immigration reform to pass via a discharge petition would be the worst of all worlds for the Republican Party:

In fact, the worst possible outcome for the GOP would be for the bill to become law over the explicit objections of leadership. It would give Democrats a huge policy victory but leave Republicans without the political dividends they’d pocket by being equal partners in the reform effort. It might even exacerbate their problems with Hispanic voters. And allowing a couple dozen Republicans to sign a discharge petition would accomplish just that.

That is the argument I’ve made all along. Why would the Republicans get any credit for immigration reform when the party was doing it at best grudgingly? Look at yesterday’s vote: the huge bipartisan agreement ended with 70% of Senate Republicans (including all of the leadership) voting against it. That doesn’t say, “We are embracing immigrants!”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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