One of the worst habits of political journalism is that since the people writing it are very well-informed about the details of the political process they sometimes skip the basic steps of explaining to the broader public what’s going on. Yesterday George Stephanopoulos hosted an exchange between Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) in which the two members disagreed as to whether the bipartisan immigration reform package that past the Senate with 68 votes could secure majority support in the House of Representatives.
My sense is that an ordinary person watching this would regard it as similar to two prizefighters boasting before the bout about their confidence in victory. Whatever anyone says at the pre-fight press conference, we’ll just wait and see the outcome when the fight actually happens. After all, as Steve Benen writes the sensible way to figure out whether the Gang of 8 bill has majority support in the House would be to hold a vote on it. What Stephanopoulos knows—and what other veteran political reporters know—is that this isn’t how the House of Representatives works. The operative question facing the country isn’t whether or not the bill has majority support, it’s whether or not the House leadership will agree to hold a vote on the bill. The fact that John Boehner and his team don’t want to hold a vote is extremely strong evidence that they are not at all confident about their ability to win a vote. The appropriate question for Cole, given his prediction, is why not hold a vote? If opponents of the Senate approach aren’t afraid of losing the vote, then what are they afraid of?