Major Garrett reads the tea leaves on immigration reform in the House and likes the chances for progress next year. He notes not only House Speaker John Boehner’s hiring of Rebecca Tallent, but thinks that the budget deal has demonstrated that the Boehner and his leadership team can work around hard-line conservatives in his party. He also notes the Obama administration’s increasing willingness to accept the piecemeal, bill-by-bill approach the House wants to take (as opposed to one big comprehensive bill, which is what the Senate did last year), and thinks Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may end up playing significant role. Here’s how he thinks it might play out:
Boehner has to wait for the bulk of primary season to pass (May or June) before serious immigration work can begin. By then, much of the legislation can be written and the calendar cleared for action in the summer. The House GOP leader on the budget deal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., may emerge as a key figure. Ryan’s pedigree is not on immigration policy, but conference conservatives will follow him. He has the scars of the budget fights, the experience of a national campaign, and a wide-open calendar to freelance now that spending numbers have been set for the next two years. Ryan has boundless policy energy and equally boundless ambition. If Boehner needs or wants a new driver on immigration, one tested by fire from the right, he may well choose Ryan.
A lot can change between now and May, but right now, this seems like a reasonable scenario.
By the way, those who lobbied for the immigration integration programs proposed in the Senate bill last spring (which included resources for english language instruction, job training, and legal services), will have their work cut out for them during the House process (assuming it ever gets going). I don’t think integration programs are seen right now as an integral part of whatever legalization scheme they come up with in the House.