"We're going to continue to work in a common-sense, step-by-step way," Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, told Capitol Hill reporters on the subject of immigration reform last week.
"How we proceed down the road, we're going to have to make those decisions. This is a tricky path to do this correctly and we can't have real immigration reform if we don't first secure our borders."
"We're not winning this fight," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., opined. "They are mounting a better campaign than we are — the opposition is."
Neither the Speaker nor the Arizona senator, nor President Obama, nor many, if indeed any, of the hundreds of Beltway voices on the subject seem to listen much. If they did, if they truly listened, they'd know there was a pretty straightforward way out of the impasse on the issue.
That path forward was touched on in an op-ed by Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton in the Wall Street Journal last week.
"Effective enforcement requires a border fence, a visa-tracking system to catch visa-overstayers, and a workable employer-verification system," Cotton wrote. "The Senate bill fails on all three fronts."
"When I was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan," Cotton added, "my units relied on guards and technology to secure our bases, but the first line of defense was always a physical perimeter."
Cotton's clarity and directness underscores why so many hope the former Army Ranger and Harvard Law grad will challenge the hapless Mark Pryor, the Arkansas Democrat who holds the seat because he holds his father's name. The elder Pryor was in the seat from 1979 to 1997, and was governor and congressman before that. Pryor the younger should topple easily to the young Congressman with the distinguished service record, but before Cotton beats Pryor, he is committed to beating back a terrible immigration bill.
House Republicans are deeply divided between the do-nothings, the do-somethings and the do-something-mores. There aren't any House GOPers leading cheers for the mangled Senate bill, an 800+ page monstrosity that came out looking like Obamacare with a bonus for defense contractors interested in selling high-tech toys to the Border patrol.
Unfortunately, some in House leadership think they can talk their way past the base and fudge on the fence. Some of the representatives make a horrible mistake by trying to pretend a lot of the fence has been built when in fact it is traffic barriers and low "pedestrian fencing," not the long, strong, double-layered barriers that work in San Diego and other formerly high-traffic areas of the border.
Any House bill that does not mandate a minimum 700 miles of double-layered fencing, across tribal lands where necessary, fully funded and backed by the "notwithstanding any other law" language that trumps conflicting statutes like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, is a head fake, a breach of trust with border security conservatives, and a death knell for immigration reform in this Congress. Pushing fake solutions and fake fences guarantees real anger directed at GOPers voting for the fraud.
House members are headed home for August recess, to town halls and coffees. They need to hear from their constituents that the Senate bill is terrible and the House bill drafted by the House Homeland Security Committee almost as bad.
The House needs to pass a detailed bill, full of specifics on the border fence, E-Verify and visa-tracking bill, a bill that is also explicit on the promise of regularization for most of the 11 million in the country now upon completion of the border security provisions.
Only Washington-think could have screwed up such an obvious and easy solution. But it has.
HUGH HEWITT, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.