Is the Immigration Bill Really a “Backroom Deal”?

Via Ed Kilgore, Jonathan Strong does a nice job explaining how “the immigration bill” is actually going to make it through Congress. Eight senators have a comprehensive bill—perhaps you’ve heard of it? Eight members of the House are also working through a comprehensive bill. But any immigration bill would need to make it through the House Judiciary Committee, which is run by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who has told anyone who’ll listen that he prefers smaller reform bills to a comprehensive one. Strong says:

Lawmakers and aides involved in the secret bipartisan group privately warn that Goodlatte could potentially blow up the push for an immigration bill in the House.

But immigration is under the Judiciary Committee’s purview, and moving the bill through the panel is part of the “regular order” Republicans have been clamoring for.

Here’s one problem: The kludge-happy 112th Congress left a legacy of mistrust and paranoia. It swerved from crisis (continuing resolution!) to crisis (debt limit!), but failed to generate its own fixes. The fixes were handed down after high-level meetings between White House negotiators and Republican leaders. It culminated with the “fiscal cliff” deal of Dec. 31, 2012, which was forced upon Congress.

Legislation doesn’t usually work like that. The immigration bills are all going to get hearings; there’s no suggestion that they’ll be closed to amendments. But portraying something as a secret deal forced upon members of Congress with zero debate remains a really powerful argument! So we keep hearing it.