Yuval Levin has an excellent piece at NRO, “Reforming Immigration Reform,” on how the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill could be improved. Levin notes “that, compared with some other conservative critics (including some of NR’s editors), my starting point on this subject is significantly friendlier to the sort of approach Rubio seems to have in mind.” I share Levin’s general perspective on immigration, and his desire to see sensible reforms. But a majority of the Senate is unlikely to adopt his proposed amendments. So I wonder if, in practice, the comprehensive Gang of Eight bill is in fact reformable. And I wonder (and Levin agrees with this in principle) whether it wouldn’t be a lot easier to get a desirable outcome by having separate bills focusing on the different aspects of the immigration issue, rather than seeking to improve the Gang of Eight “comprehensive” legislation.
So why accept the Gang of Eight template in the first place? Shouldn’t the House move ahead on its own with separate bills addressing border security, e-verify, high skill immigration, etc.? If various pieces of legislation start to move in the House, it would be harder for supporters of the comprehensive Senate bill to say that it’s the Gang of Eight bill or nothing. And if the Gang of Eight eventually fails in the Senate, it wouldn’t be easy for Harry Reid — having emphasized how important the issue of immigration is — to refuse to take up legislation the House has passed. In which case, the best thing for now would be to defeat or at least delay the Senate bill, and to let the House go first with separate pieces of legislation.
Doesn’t this run the risk of having nothing at all pass both houses this session? Yes. So to embrace this “House first” approach does mean accepting, as a fallback, that the status quo is preferable to the Gang of Eight legislation. For what it’s worth, I’m increasingly coming to believe that’s the case.