The Los Angeles Times reports yesterday on plans by the leadership of the House of Representatives to hold field hearings this summer on the immigration and border security legislation, instead of moving forward to conference with the Senate on the legislation:
The plan, unveiled almost a month after the Senate measure passed, is the latest sign of reluctance among the GOP House leadership to try to negotiate a compromise bill that would include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Conservatives say that element â€” a central part of the Senate measure â€” is the equivalent of amnesty.
House leaders insisted Tuesday that they still hoped to negotiate with the Senate. But the schedule for the hearings, set for July and August across the country, makes it unlikely that the two chambers can reach a final agreement before the November elections.
When Congress reconvenes in September, most lawmakers will be preoccupied with their campaigns; traditionally, little important business gets done at that time.
Failure to produce a bill would be a huge setback for Bush, who has prodded lawmakers to pass immigration legislation that â€” like the Senate legislation â€” would toughen border enforcement but also create a guest worker program and offer millions of illegal immigrants a way to gain legal status.
Democrats interpreted the House decision to hold town-hall-style meetings as an effort to stop the Senate legislation.
“The Republican House wants to defeat the immigration bill,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “This is a stall.”
I’ve been describing the border legislation using baseball metaphors from time to time over the last six months. This is the legislative equivalent of Alfonso Soriano’s refusal to play in the outfield for the Nats during spring training – a position that he relented on a few days later, after public pressure.
This is a risky game for the House Republicans to play. By stalling the bill, they’re not only postponing the immigration-related portions of the bill, but also important measures on border security. Perhaps the Republicans figure that they can still achieve most of their border security objectives via the appropriations process instead. Nevertheless, they could find themselves subject to a negative backlash for doing nothing to improve security at the border. And if the Democrats take back the House of Representatives in November – a real possibility – then they will have lost their window of opportunity to craft a bill that is too their liking, and we’ll back to square one in the 110th Congress.