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First Thoughts: Over to the House

Immigration action now heads over to the House… Four reasons why Boehner and the House Republicans relent on immigration reform… Four reasons why they don’t… If a bill is signed into law, it would probably have to come from a minority of House Republicans… Friday’s weekly 2016 wrap… Former U.S. general is target of classified-leak probe… And Pelosi to appear on “Meet.”

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House Speaker John Boehner takes a reporter's question during a press conference following a meeting of the Republican Conference in this file photo.

*** Over to the House: On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed historic comprehensive immigration legislation by a bipartisan 68-32 vote, which included support from 14 Senate Republicans. Those are good numbers considering today’s partisan climate in Washington. But they aren’t great numbers either, especially when the name of the game was to pressure the House as much as possible. Sixty-eight votes is slightly below the 70 or 70--plus immigration reformers had desired, and 14 Republicans represent less than half of the Senate GOP caucus (and it didn’t include a single member of the Republican leadership). So now that the action moves to the House, what are the prospects there? House Speaker John Boehner said two things yesterday: 1) the House will pursue its own bill and not the Senate’s, and 2) the legislation must have support from a majority of House Republicans, even out of conference. “We're going to do our own bill through regular order, and it'll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people,” he said.  “And for any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House is going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.” We’ve come up with four reasons why Boehner and House Republicans will relent on immigration reform, and four reasons why they won’t. 

*** Why Boehner and the House Republicans relent on immigration reform: The first reason comes down to long-term politics: After Romney lost Latino voters 71%-27% in 2012, Republicans don’t want to get blamed for immigration reform’s defeat. In ’12, you’ll recall, Romney and Republicans blamed Obama for the inability of reform to pass during his first term. But that avenue won’t exist in 2016 or beyond if the GOP-led House doesn’t step up to the plate. The second reason would be the pressure. Immigration reform advocates have vowed that Latinos will march on Washington and do other things to put pressure on House Republicans, who would prefer that the rest of 2013 and the first part of 2014 focus on Obamacare and the administration controversies they’ve been pursuing. A third reason: The GOP establishment is for immigration reform, and the establishment often gets its way (example: Romney winning the ’12 presidential nomination). From the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads to the business community, the establishment wants immigration reform to pass. The question is how hard does it fight for it? And the fourth reason is that another young GOP star -- House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan -- plays the Rubio role in the House to convince enough to support reform.

*** Why Boehner and the House Republicans don’t budge: But there are counterarguments to all four reasons. First, when have House Republicans cared that much about presidential politics? In 2012, Obama convincingly won the election, but he carried just 209 out of 435 congressional districts, while Romney carried 226. In other words, Republicans could lose the 2016 presidential contest to Hillary Clinton (or whomever else) and still keep their congressional majority. Second, House Republicans have tended to ignore any pressure they get. They didn’t budge after the Obama White House floated a compromise offer to solve the sequester, and they haven’t budged a bit to appoint conferees to hammer out a budget in conference committee. What’s more, per the Cook Report’s David Wasserman, there are only 24 House Republicans in districts where Latinos make up more than 25% of the vote. Third, the GOP establishment can be defeated in the House (example: last week’s farm bill), and the GOP establishment lately has been VERY quiet lately when it comes to immigration reform. And fourth, Paul Ryan could very well play Rubio’s role in the House. But ask yourself this question: Did Rubio help or hurt himself over the past couple of months?

*** If a bill is signed into law, why it would probably come from a minority of House Republicans: But if immigration reform is likely going to pass the House -- and be signed into law by President Obama -- it will be with a minority of House Republicans. Why? As TPM’s Brian Beutler has speculated, it’s doubtful that there are 120 House Republicans (a majority of the conference) who would support any legislation that creates a path to citizenship, which is something that Obama and the Democrats have demanded. It’s also doubtful there are 218 House Republicans who would agree to pass any kind of immigration measure (because some Republicans don’t want this to go to conference). Therefore, if anything is going to pass that Obama would sign into law, it would be with just 40 to 60 House Republicans. That route has been taken before: Out of the 15 pieces of legislation signed into law during the 113th Congress, two of them -- Hurricane Sandy relief and the Violence Against Women reauthorization -- have come with support from just a minority of House Republicans. But Boehner has vowed not to let that happen with the immigration legislation, even out of a conference committee. Thus the dilemma for immigration reformers…

*** Friday’s weekly 2016 wrap: Rubio, who talked about how this process has been “a real trial” for him with his base, voted for the immigration bill he helped craft… Some -- like Rick Santorum -- wonder how this might hurt him in 2016, but Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who voted against it, says it won’t likely hurt him in Iowa because winning will be everything… Rand Paul voted against it… Eyes will turn to Paul Ryan and his role in pushing immigration in the House... The interim New Jersey Sen. Jeff Chiesa, whom New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed, voted for it (which happened to be after senators lobbied Christie to urge Chiesa to vote in favor)… But Christie also slammed the DOMA ruling, calling it a “bad decision” and “another example of judicial supremacy.”… So did Rubio, saying people opposed to same-sex marriage aren’t “bigots.”… But Bill and Hillary Clinton put out a statement supporting it (after Bill Clinton originally signed it into law.)… Vice President Biden presided over the immigration-reform vote. And his latest “Being Biden” recording was on gay marriage, citing a gay aide Carlos. “Americans are way ahead of their political leadership,” he said.

*** In other 2016 news: Santorum is now running a Christian film company… Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) was featured in National Journal with this headline, “Is It Time to Take Martin O’Malley Seriously?”… Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s troubles keep piling up with a Washington Post report that a donor bought him a $6,500 Rolex watch. He refused to comment on it… And we missed this last week, but Bobby Jindal has changed his tone from, “We can’t be the stupid party,” to, “excessive navel gazing leads to paralysis.” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval called for comprehensive immigration reform. … Elizabeth Warren continues to push her student-loan bill, which has picked up support ahead of Monday’s deadline, but nothing will pass before then.

*** Former U.S. general is target of classified-leak probe: Here’s the other big political news out there. “Legal sources tell NBC News that the former second ranking officer in the U.S. military is now the target of a Justice Department investigation into a politically sensitive leak of classified information about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program,” NBC’s Michael Isikoff first reported last night. “According to legal sources, Retired Marine Gen. James ‘Hoss’ Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has received a target letter informing him that he’s under investigation for allegedly leaking information about a massive attack using a computer virus named Stuxnet on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Gen. Cartwright, 63, becomes the latest individual targeted over alleged leaks by the Obama administration, which has already prosecuted or charged eight individuals under the Espionage Act.”

*** Pelosi to appear on “Meet”: Lastly, House Minority Leader Nancy will be David Gregory’s guest on “Meet the Press” this Sunday.

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