House passage of the "Ryan-Murray Budget" has cleared a path for immigration reform by making more room on the legislative calendar and demonstrating that foes of current immigration reform efforts are in a weakened position.
The Heritage Foundation, one of the leading voices opposing immigration reform, opposed the budget deal. Heritage Action, Heritage Foundation's associated political action committee, warned House Republicans they would "score" the vote. This means that when Heritage releases its "scorecard" ahead of elections, members who voted in favor of the bill will receive a score describing them as less conservative. Opponents, particularly in primary elections, can use that score to describe the member as insufficiently conservative.
Even with that threat, though, only 62 Republicans voted against the bill; 169 Republicans voted for it.
Before the vote, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) fired Paul Teller as executive director of Republican Study Committee. Teller played a key role in linking the goals of Heritage and other conservative groups with House Republicans.
The firing and the vote both demonstrate that Heritage does not have the influence to move votes as they (perhaps) once had. This likely means that the organization will be unable to derail immigration reform legislation.
Indeed, Heritage already recognizes this fact. Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, recently claimed that Boehner wanted to pass the budget package in order to "clear the way for immigration reform next year."
Only Boehner knows whether or not one of his goals was to clear a path for immigration reform. Nonetheless, it clearly does that.
Conservative groups will likely support most of the immigration reform legislation that the House is working on, such as strengthening border security and updating and expanding the guest worker program. The more controversial bill, though, will likely be a path to legal status for current unauthorized immigrants.
As The Christian Post previously reported, a path to citizenship, like in the Senate's immigration reform bill, is unlikely, but a path to some type of legal status is still possible. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), an emerging leader in the conservative and Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, has said he would not support a path to citizenship but could support a path to legal status.
While The Heritage Foundation and some other conservative groups may oppose such a measure, the passage of the Ryan-Murray budget demonstrates it may not matter.