When House GOP members leave their big meeting on immigration reform tomorrow, every one of them ought to be able to answer a few obvious questions. To allow the meeting to break-up without rolling out a coherent and relatively complete set of messages is to invite any single member to injure or even destroy –accidentally or intentionally–the communication of the GOP’s path forward.
The first set of questions are procedural: What’s the plan? Are we going to pass some bills (how many?) and go to a conference committee with the Senate? If so, when, and who will be on the conference committee? Key question: Will the bill that committee crafts be subject to the Haster rule? Will the members of the conference committee report back regularly to the GOP Conference on the specifics being negotiated to gather input?
The second –far more important because whatever the House votes for becomes the record of the GOP members supporting it:
How many miles long will the new border fence be –at a minimum? What are its design specs? Double-layered fencing is guaranteed for how many miles? Are those minimum number of miles indicated on a map that the Administration must build? Will it be fully funded in advance, allow for citizens standing to enforce its construction, cross tribal lands where necessary, and be worded to trump any other law that might be used to halt its construction such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act?
When will port and visa security improvements be added? When will E-verify become mandatory and what are the penalties for hiring an undocumented worker post-implmentation?
And what are the years spent in each category –newly regularized and then green card holder– before eligible for citizenship?
The point of being able to answer these questions? Two, actually.
First, every GOP Congressman who votes for immigration reform bill(s) to go to a conference with the Senate has to answer these questions and I know that because I am one of the people who regularly interview GOP Congressmen on immigration and I ask these questions. Even the dimmest of the Caucus have to be able to get through these simple questions and not revert to cliche-filled slogans either for or against the reform effort.
Second, only by agreeing on the key basic substance issues will the GOP members sent to the conference to the House go with a sense of what is the priority of their members.
Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry have jointly authored an editorial urging that the immigration effort be killed, which should be read by every member before tomorrow’s meeting. I don’t agree with them, and think there is merit to a clear, concise bill or set of bills that gets the big things done in a way that every member of the Congress and the public can read an understand. There really isn’t any reason that a coherent and compact statute can’t emerge from the House, and zero reason for every GOP Member not to be prepared both before and after the big gathering.