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The Most Important Decision for Immigration Reform Rests With Boehner

The single most important development in immigration reform so far is that Speaker John Boehner (R) is open to breaking the “majority of the majority” rule on this issue. While Boehner didn’t technically endorse the idea, when pressed on it in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Boehner made sure to leave option on the table. From ABC News:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But in the end, you’re gonna have to make the big call. You’re gonna have to make the call on whether or not to allow a vote on a bill– that perhaps doesn’t get a majority of Republicans. (COUGH) In the past, you have not been willing to do that. Are you willing to do it now?

BOEHNER: George, I– listen. I’ve allowed the House to work with– t– well, more than any speaker in modern history, to the point where there are some bills that have passed– with a majority of Democrats– in favor, and a minority of Republicans–


BOEHNER: It’s not up– it’s not about what I want. It’s about what the House wants. And my job is– as speaker– is to ensure that all members on both sides have a fair shot at their ideas

The reality is the Speaker does have a lot of control over what reaches the House floor, which is how things like the majority of the majority rule got started in the first place. For any Speaker to allow a bill to get a vote a majority of his caucus won’t support is a major concession. For Boehner to try to down play that fact on this issue is a big deal.

Immigration reform is mostly on track in the Senate and Obama will likely sign anything. This leaves the House as the choke point.

Getting a majority of House Republicans to back immigration reform is an extremely difficult task. The changes needed to get some conservative members on board could make any bill unacceptable in the Senate and it might be even impossible to get a majority of House Republicans to vote for anything called “immigration reform.”

On the other hand, getting only a majority of all House members to back a bill is a substantially easier bar to clear. By simply deciding what threshold to subject immigration reform to, Boehner basically has the power to make or break any deal.

Photo by Gage Skidmore released under Creative Commons License

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at