The virtue of being a “do nothing Congress”

Fred Barnes argues that House Republicans need to pass an immigration reform bill along the lines of the Senate’s measure in order to preserve their majority status. His main contention is that the public now realizes that there is a serious immigration problem and, with Republicans in control of both chambers, will blame the GOP if no measure to deal with the problem is enacted.

Barnes is more astute about these things than I am. I would argue, nonetheless, that the best chance for House Republicans as a group to win in November lies in making sure that a Senate-style bill does not pass, and to campaign on the basis of (a) having blocked amnesty and inadequte border security provisions and (b) representing the only obstacle to that approach. If conservative and moderate voters believe that a Republican House is all that stands between this country and the mass influx of aliens, both legal and illegal, over the next two decades, the chances of the Republicans maintaining control are good, or at least maximized.

Assuming that this is good politics, what about the merits? It is true that if Republicans lose the House then Congress might well pass (and the president sign) a package that is less serious than the present Senate bill about enforcing the border. However, things aren’t at the point that Repubicans should assume defeat no matter what. Moreover, this Congress and the next do not constitute the last chance to do something about the border. The problem of border security is urgent, but that doesn’t mean that we should pass a deeply flawed bill that, because of its lack of wholehearted enforcement and the prospect of something close to amnesty, is unlikely to make our border appreciably more secure.

UPDATE: David Frum sees it more or less the same way I do:

Barnes is not entirely wrong here. If the session ends without an immigration control bill, the result will be a political blow to the GOP. The problem is that if the session ends with the passage of the Senate’s immigration bill (as Barnes suggests it should) the result will be a political catastrophe for the GOP.


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