After Speaker John Boehner said the House can’t work on immigration reform due to their trust issues with President Obama, Senator Chuck Schumer suggested they pass a law that won’t take effect until 2017, when Obama is out of office. Republicans immediately rejected the idea, so on Thursday Schumer came back with an equally zany proposal: Bring the Senate immigration overhaul that passed in June directly to the House floor via discharge petition. The rare legislative maneuver would allow proponents of immigration reform to circumvent the Republican House leadership, if they can get support from every single Democrat and eighteen Republicans willing to betray Boehner.
A discharge petition was last used in 2002 to pass campaign finance reform, and for months, pundits (including New York’s Jonathan Chait) have been suggesting that the tactic be used to pass immigration reform. The idea was revived this week by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, and on Thursday, Schumer said he’s urging House Democrats to take it up. “Discharge petitions are difficult, but when they work, it’s because there’s a clear majority of the body that supports a specific proposal, and in this case, that is true,” Schumer told the New York Times. “But I have no illusions that this will be easy in any way.”
“This scheme has zero chance of success,” a Boehner spokesman responded. Lawmakers and aides in both parties seem to agree with that assessment. “It means you’re putting a thumb in the eye of the speaker, not just in this issue but any issue,” said Republican Representative Charlie Dent. “You’re essentially handing control of the floor to the minority party.”
But for Schumer, there’s no down side to continuing to push the issue. Even if Republicans aren’t pressured into taking action on immigration reform, Democrats can tell midterm election voters that their opponents are trying to “sweep the issue under the rug,” as Schumer put it. So expect the senator to keep proposing various “schemes” to fix our immigration system.