- (Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
After passage of a comprehensive immigration bill in the U.S. Senate, the bill has an uncertain future as the U.S. House takes up the legislation. Here are three reasons an immigration reform bill will not pass, and three reasons it will.
Why It Will Not Pass
1. House Republicans
A majority of the House Republican caucus is likely opposed to the Senate bill. The voteview blog, written by political scientists Christopher Hare, Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, estimates that if the House voted on the Senate bill, it would pass, 303 to 128, but, Republicans would split 103 to 128.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not bring a bill to the floor that does not get the support of a majority of his caucus. (This is known as the "Hastert rule.") Boehner also clarified last week that he would maintain the Hastert rule for any conference bill, or bill that is a compromise between the House and Senate bills, as well.
2. President's Second Term
Since the 22nd Amendment was added to the Constitution limiting the president to two terms, significant pieces of legislation rarely get passed in a president's second term. Large, transformational bills generally require presidential leadership. A president's ability to usher such bills through Congress is significantly diminished, though, once they are no longer able to run for a second term.
During the George W. Bush presidency, for example, he was successful at getting two tax cut bills and the Patriot Act passed during his first term, but failed to get Social Security reform and immigration reform in his second term.
3. Economic Uncertainty
As the bill makes its way through Congress, the public may get cold feet as worries about the economy take precedence. There is a debate, though, over whether the law would help or hurt the economy.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, issued a report stating that law would hurt the economy because most new immigrants would receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report saying it would boost the economy by increasing investment and productivity. The CBO report also said, though, that wages would decrease slightly and the unemployment rate would increase slightly.
Recent Gallup polls show that Americans' confidence in the economy is more negative than positive. Plus, when Gallup asked Americans an open-ended question about their greatest worries, the most common answers were the economy, the national debt and employment, in that order.
With that high level of uncertainty about the economy, constituents in key districts may be reluctant to ask their congressional representatives to support a new, far-reaching law.
Why It Will Pass
1. Public Opinion
Many of the proposals in the bill have strong public support, even among Republicans. A recent Gallup poll showed that a path to citizenship for current unauthorized immigrants, given they meet certain conditions, has the support of 87 percent of Americans. That level of support was about the same for Republicans, Democrats and independents.
The poll also shows strong support for strengthening border security, requiring businesses to check the immigration status of new hires, and providing legal status to those who earn advanced degrees in science or engineering.
2. Obama and Democrats Need It
During his first campaign, President Barack Obama said he would work on passing an immigration reform bill. That promise took a back seat, however, to health care reform and the economy. Obama was also instrumental in killing the previous immigration reform bill as a U.S. senator during the George W. Bush administration. The current effort will be an opportunity for Obama to redeem himself and for the Democratic Party to deliver for one of their core constituencies – Latinos.
3. Republicans Need It
On the Republican side, immigration reform is an opportunity for party members to put an issue that has harmed their chances with Latino voters behind them. During Republican primaries (both presidential and congressional), the Party hurt their chances with Latino voters due to some rhetoric that sounded, not just anti-immigration reform, but anti-Latino. Mitt Romney's use of the phrase "self-deportation," sounded insensitive to the struggles faced by some Latinos, for instance. The Party, therefore, has an incentive to put the issue away so it can focus on the issues where it can garner Latino support.