The Boehner Ultimatum

Sometimes it's hard to tell which Republicans in Congress fear more: immigration reform passing, or immigration reform not passing. They need to help pass reform to show America's Latino voters that, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, the Republican party doesn't actually hate them. But their base doesn't actually like the idea of comprehensive reform, particularly if it involves a path to citizenship (even a long and painful one). What to do?

In the Senate, where six-year terms allow for a longer view and members represent entire states, immigration reform probably has more than enough votes to pass, even over a filibuster. In the House, however, things are more complicated. It isn't that reform can't get the votes, because it can. But if it did, the majority would be made up of nearly all the Democrats and just some of the Republicans. And that would be a violation of the "Hastert rule," which calls for no bill to be allowed to the floor for a vote unless it has the support of "a majority of the majority," i.e. a majority of Republicans. And the guy who makes the decision about what does and doesn't come to the floor spends his days glancing up at the sword of Damocles hanging above his head, in the form of Tea Party rage. Which is why John Boehner reportedly told a meeting of House conservatives that he won't bring a bill to the floor without a majority of Republicans in support. Which would probably mean only a bill that erected 50-foot high electrified fences on every inch of border and exiled every undocumented immigrant to Antarctica. (We exaggerate, of course. A bit.)

But then that means no reform will pass, since a bill like that would never get through the Senate. To some in the GOP, that would be just fine. To others, the optimum outcome is that reform passes—helping diffuse resentment among Latinos toward the party as a whole—but they personally get to vote against it, so they can tell their conservative base they fought against Obama's amnesty for illegals. But it may all depend on what Boehner does. And he faces nothing but bad options: assuage the Tea Partiers and damage the party, or buck them and possibly lose his job to a revolt from the right. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for him.

So They Say

The whole point of my concern, before I was president—because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? 

Barack Obama, in an interview with Charlie Rose


Daily Meme: Old Many Science Face Palming

  • “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?” Texas Representative Michael Burgess, everyone.
  • Today, the House was debating HR 1797—the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—a bill to make nearly all abortions after 20 weeks illegal. Similar laws have been passed in 11 states in the past three years.
  • Burgess' Akin-flavored remarks stole the show.
  • Canada is laughing at us.
  • It hasn't been a good month for conservatives and abortion (although, is it ever?). It's been a long road of neverending "Todays in Old Man Science."
  • Trent Franks had some not so smart things to say about abortion last week.
  • Burgess is apparently a former OB/GYN who has overseen "thousands of pregnancies."
  • According to Amanda Marcotte, "The bill is expected to pass the House but has no chance in the Senate or with the president, which means that perhaps after this one dies, Burgess will be the inspiration for the next bill: Masturbation-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which under the Burgess 'making it up as you go along' scientific standard will only apply to male fetuses, as female fetuses are definitely too modest to even consider such filthy behavior."
  • But the Masturbating Fetus Argument, dumb and bizarre as it is, represents a new threshold in anti-abortion weirdness. That is: that a fetus seemingly making "pleasurable" movements outweighs the wishes, desires and medical needs of the woman carrying that fetus ... Maybe we need another Congressional hearing to hash this out. Right after we all start a band called the Masturbating Fetuses. 
  • (The modesty of female fetuses was perhaps disproved in this 90s Italian study.)
  • Not all Republicans are going crazy over reproductive rights. Representative Charlie Dent said, "I'll be very frank: I discouraged our leadership from bringing this to a vote on the floor … Clearly the economy is on everyone's minds, we're seeing very stagnant job numbers, confidence in the institution of government is eroding and now we're going to have a debate on rape and abortion. The stupidity is simply staggering."

What We're Writing

  • On the Kansas side of Kansas City, suburban poverty has shot up 134 percent in the last decade. Monica Potts writes about why the those suburbs are often home to more poverty than the urban centers they surround.
  • Most non-Texans likely figured that Texas Governor Rick Perry would fade away after his somewhat embarrassing tour in the national spotlight, but Abby Rapoport writes that he still has his eyes trained on the White House.

What We're Reading

  • Behind the scenes of the Supreme Court legal major league's fight club.
  • What part of Politico don’t you understand?” A conversation with the news organizations two heads.
  • How has the FISA court changed since 9/11?
  • From 2008 to 2011, 52 percent of the military suicides on record were commited by service members who had never seen combat.
  • The Justice Department pays a whole heckuva lot of money to keep searching for Jimmy Hoffa.
  • George Packer writes about the growing comfortable exchange happening between tech and government.
  • The Taliban is willing to start peace talks with the United States in Afghanistan.
  • Is Scott Walker a dark horse for the 2016 presidential ticket?
  • Vladimir Putin is friends with Steven Seagal. He has also made a DVD called Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin.

Poll of the Day

The majority of Americans are not in favor of arming the Syrian opposition, according to a recently released poll by the Pew Research Center. A total of 70 percent of the population wants no weapons sent to the nation, and 60 percent believe that the next regime may be no better than the current one led by Bashar al-Assad. Despite the staunch opposition, 53 percent of those polled believe that it is important for the U.S. to help people opposing authoritarian regimes. 

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