Well, that ray of sunshine didn't last long. House Republicans' encouraging tilt toward immigration reform, complete with a statement of principles conceding that even immigrants without documents who meet certain criteria should be able to “live legally and without fear in the U.S.,” survived for just one week.
It took one week for heated backlash from anti-immigration stalwarts in the House and around the country to prompt Speaker John Boehner into backtracking.
Never mind, Boehner said in responding last week. We probably can't do immigration reform this year after all, not even the sort of piecemeal reform the House leadership contemplated.
Make no mistake: The House leadership's embrace of serious immigration reform was and remains a significant breakthrough — and may yet serve as a template for compromise with the Senate and White House on this longstanding issue, even if only next year.
Still, Boehner's capitulation to the GOP's die-hards is deeply disappointing. It was also brazenly insincere.
The speaker blamed his reversal on the president, saying “there's widespread doubt whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.” But this excuse doesn't pass the laugh test. Boehner had been pounded by critics worried about primary challenges from the right to Republican incumbents, and who insisted the GOP should refuse to give the president any major policy triumph in an election year.
Of course, the whole point of Republicans seeking a compromise deal on immigration was to give them a major policy victory, one that also helped burnish their image with Hispanic voters.
Rarely has a party been so stubbornly in denial about the need to reach out to a wider base.