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Note to the House GOP: Kill the Bill

6:40 AM, Jul 31, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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US Capitol Building at night Jan 2006

The House Republican leadership is having trouble getting 218 votes for its immigration bill. The policy objections to the bill seem convincing to me—among them that it seems to appropriate more money, on a pro-rated monthly basis, than the president's proposal; that it might well make it harder, not easier, to send some or all of the illegal migrants back; that it changes the asylum laws in ways that might well backfire; and that it doesn't deal in any way the core cause of the problem, the president's 2012 executive amnesty for minors or his pending huge expansion of that amnesty. These objections haven't been convincingly addressed by leadership. And of course there's been no markup of the leadership bill, no hearings about it, and no amendments permitted to it. All of this is grounds for not rushing to pass dubious legislation. The House Republican leadership should pull the bill.

But the overwhelming reason to kill the bill is that it's not going to become law anyway. The president and the Senate leadership have made clear they'll never accept it. So what's the point of passing it? Leadership's answer is—well, we'll get credit for trying to do something. But will they? From whom? The mainstream media? Perhaps for one day. Then the media will focus on what further compromises the GOP leadership will accept in September, on why Republicans won't go to conference with the original Senate bill or parts of it, and on splits in GOP ranks about immigration. GOP town halls during the August recess will be dominated by challenges about the merits of the bill leadership rushed through—challenges members won't have an easy time answering and that Republican House and Senate challengers certainly don't need to be dealing with. Rushing the bill through now will make what Republicans think and don't think about immigration the lead topic for August. It will take the focus off what President Obama has done about immigration. Rushing through a poorly thought through GOP bill will take the focus off the man who is above all responsible for the disaster at the border—the president.

If the GOP does nothing, and if Republicans explain that there's no point acting due to the recalcitrance of the president to deal with the policies that are causing the crisis, the focus will be on the president. Republican incumbents won't have problematic legislation to defend or questions to answer about what further compromises they'll make. Republican challengers won't have to defend or attack GOP legislation. Instead, the focus can be on the president—on his refusal to enforce the immigration law, on the effect of his unwise and arbitrary executive actions in 2012, on his pending rash and illegal further executive acts in 2014, and on his refusal to deal with the real legal and policy problems causing the border crisis. And with nothing passed in either house (assuming Senate Republicans stick together and deny Harry Reid cloture today), immigration won't dominate August—except as a problem the president is responsible for and refuses seriously to address. Meanwhile, the GOP can go on the offensive on a host of other issues.

The president's approval rating is slipping to historic lows. Let it continue to slide. Don't bail him out by jamming though a bill that divides Republicans, will confuse voters, won't become law anyway, muddies responsibility for the border fiasco, and takes the spotlight off what should be the focus of the August recess--President Obama's failed policies and Congressional Democrats' support for them.

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