Farm Fail Makes Immigration Reform More Likely

A blog about business and economics.
June 23 2013 2:06 PM

Good News for Immigration Reform in the Farm Bill's Failure

John Boehner addresses the National Association of Manufacturers, June 20, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
John Boehner addresses the National Association of Manufacturers, June 20, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ever since John Boehner failed to round up a majority in support of the GOP version of farm bill reauthorization, there's been some interest in the implications of this for comprehensive immigration legislation. Most of all, I think there just aren't many implications—they are different issues with different coalitions. But the farm fail does underscore that the strategically savviest path for Boehner to block comprehensive immigration reform probably isn't available.

That's because the best way for Boehner to prevent a comprehensive deal from happening is to pass an immigration reform bill that takes large sections of the Gang of 8 bill but just leaves out the main amnesty and path to citizenship that's at the core of Democratic Party immigration politics.

If a bill like that passes the House, you'll have an old-fashioned legislative standoff. Republicans would be able to say that all sorts of stuff for high-tech workers and agricultural labor and border security that Democrats claim to favor is being held up over their demand for amnesty. Then Democrats could counter that all this stuff is actually being held up by Republican obsession with "self-deportation." But the gridlock dynamic would be stable, and even Senate Republicans inclined to vote for the Gang of 8 bill might also be declined to defend the House bill as a reasonable measure and call on Democrats to compromise.

Advertisement

But this strategy requires exactly what the right-wing of Boehner's caucus has repeatedly failed to deliver—a little bit of tactical flexibility.

Absent tactical flexibility, Boehner's alternative to allowing the Gang of 8 bill to pass mostly on the back of Democratic votes is to simply pass nothing. Procedurally speaking, if mainstream House conservatives want to hold that line, nobody can stop them. But refusing to let a bipartisan bill come to the floor is a tougher sell politically if there is no all-Republican alternative bill that can command a majority. That's why Boehner has tried over and over again to pass all-Republican bills that can't possibly pass the House. The failure of the farm bill—like the failure of the "Plan B" tax bill before it—is a reminder that this option probably isn't available.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 11:36 AM Breaking Up Countries Is Still Hard to Do
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 19 2014 11:37 AM Why Urban Outfitters and Other Brands Troll Their Customers
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 19 2014 11:32 AM Why Do Pirates Talk Like That?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:51 AM This Is All That’s Left of New York’s Once-Thriving Borscht Belt 
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 11:40 AM Apple Invented the Perfect Way to Handle Your Giant New Phone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM The Curious Incident of the Supernova in the Nighttime
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.