Paul Ryan’s Crazy Plan to Save Immigration Reform

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This idea is so clever it can't fail. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

If the Senate immigration bill came up for a vote in the House, it would probably pass — some of the Republicans and almost all of the Democrats would combine for 218 votes. But conservatives have extracted promises from John Boehner not to let that happen, and the Speaker has dutifully pledged to keep the House from voting on any bill that lacks the support of most Republicans.

That would seem to make comprehensive reform pretty dead, right? Except Paul Ryan, who clearly wants to pass a bill, floated a way around this promise:

QUESTIONER: One of the biggest frustrations we’re seeing right now is hearing Speaker Boehner, that he’s going to follow the Hastert Rule. That he’s not going to bring any of these bills forward unless they have a majority support of the majority party. What’s your position, should you maintain that?

RYAN: [...] Bringing these bills to the floor, we’ll find out. It is not, “they don’t come to the floor unless we have a majority of the majority,” because we don’t know if we have a majority until we vote on it. So here’s where I see things going. I’ve spoken to John Boehner as recently as three days ago about this, which is, we all agree it is better to legislate in stages instead of one big thousand plus page bill that no one has read. [...] I’m trying to get to a consensus so a majority of us do support those component parts. I believe that’s achievable because when people really look at the details and they focus on what’s right, I believe what I’ve just laid out is something that a consensus of Republicans and Democrats can agree to.

Ryan is saying here that you can't know if Republicans support a bill until you actually hold the vote. I mean, you could ask them, but hey, who knows? Maybe they'll change their minds! Or maybe they'll try to vote against the bill but vote for it by accident. It happens.

So the plan he's discussing here apparently would be to bring some bills to the floor and then find out if most Republicans support them. Of course, the likely outcome is that they discover that an overwhelming majority of Republicans really don't like the bill and vote against it, but it gets 200 Democratic votes and passes, by which point it's too late.

Are conservatives dumb enough to be fooled by this? I really doubt it. Is Ryan even going to try to fool them in such a ham-fisted way? I doubt that too. So why is he even floating this? Is he that desperate?