Inside the Special Conference Meeting

by Jonathan Strong

Over on the home page, I take a close look at what happened inside yesterday’s special House Republican conference meeting on immigration.

With the meeting having been hyped for weeks, the expectations had been built up that the session would result in some kind of outcome one way or the other. That was always unrealistic, but if anything the meeting only clouded the picture on immigration more, highlighting deep-seated divisions and distrust within the conference.

One example of the distrust: With the details of the meeting leaking quickly to reporters waiting outside, top aides began to suspect that a member in the room was “broadcasting” the meeting with their phone, putting it on speaker mode and letting others listen in, which led to a warning from Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers to stop it. It turned out to be a rumor, but one that caused a stir.

Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and others made a strong case that the House needs to do something on immigration. But there is a strong contingent who are anxious about what the result of any conference committee with the Senate would be. At one point, Boehner promised to appoint conferees to any conference that would reflect the will of the GOP conference. But that (like other, past promises on immigration from Boehner) only planted new seeds of doubt in the minds of critics, who ripped it as vague and unenforceable.

Those conservative skeptics could easily kill a bill on the House floor if Democrats are also united against it, which seems likely based on recent comments from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi told Talking Points Memo that she and other Democrats could support the piece-by-piece approach the House is taking but only if all the pieces of a comprehensive bill like the Senate Gang of Eight’s were going to be brought to the floor. House Republicans haven’t even touched a bill that includes a “path to citizenship” yet, so the initial border-security bills aren’t likely to garner Democratic support, it would seem. 

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