That leaves a lot of time for the public to digest the Senate bill. Optimists like Nunes say that could ease concerns about the bill.
“I feel the longer this sits out, which is unusual for Washington, the better off we’re all going to be. I think this needs to sit out, the American people need to see it, they need to read it, they need to assess it, they need to see if it would work,” he says. “What the Senate is doing is like textbook 101, how to tick off the American people and rile everybody up.”
King paints another picture. “If the House simply says, ‘Let this thing cook for a little while,’ then the public will look at that Senate bill and they’ll start to see the holes in the Corker fig-leaf amendment. . . . It could sink on its way over here, by the time the public eye sees what they’ve really done over there,” he says.
And all of that happens before the House even goes to conference with the Senate, where the true end game would take place.
Speaker John Boehner said at a press conference today that for “any legislation — including a conference report — to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.”
But even if Boehner wanted to try passing a bill in violation of this so-called Hastert rule, it would cause an internal fight that he would probably lose. The right flank of the conference is too worked up about immigration, too on guard. Consider this: Ryan, the House’s Rubio, said he “absolutely” thinks it’s important for the Hastert rule to be followed for the final, conferenced bill.
Liberal pundits point to the fiscal-cliff bill, passed in haste on New Year’s Day in violation of the Hastert rule, but it isn’t a good comparison point, Republicans point out. “This is a little different. We had to deal with the end-of-year taxes, Sandy, there was an immediacy, an imperative. There’s not that immediacy or that problem of a looming deadline,” Dent says.
For anything to be enacted into law, then, it’s probably going to need to be far to the right of the Senate bill, which prompts the question of whether Senate Democrats and President Obama would be willing to approve it. Signs are it’s unlikely.
Asked about House Republican criticisms of Corker-Hoeven, Senate majority whip Dick Durbin laughs heartily.
“The tenth-largest land army in the world? On the border? 40,000 troops and maybe a navy on top of it? Just not enough? You reach a point where you say, this isn’t about the border. The border’s an excuse. They just want to vote no,” he says.
There is mistrust on both sides. Roskam warned darkly that Obama, set on winning back the House in 2014, could be preparing to use the issue to attack Republicans. With Obamacare implementation set to be a disaster, scandals brewing, and the NSA-leaks issue hamstringing him on foreign policy, immigration is an issue he’s used effectively in the past that he might fall back on again, he says.
— Jonathan Strong is a political reporter for National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter @j_strong.