Opinion: Columnists

How to tell if the amnesty fix is in

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Opinion,Conn Carroll,Columnists

"I think we have 60 votes," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told a Nevada public television station last week about the Schumer-Rubio immigration bill.

"Remember, we start out at 55 Democrats. I think the most I'll lose is two or three. Let's say I wind up with 52 Democrats," Reid continued. "I only need eight Republicans, and I already have four, so that should be pretty easy."

I don't get to say this very often, but Harry Reid is dead right. Amnesty is all but a foregone conclusion in the Senate.

Not only does Reid already have the four pro-amnesty Republicans who teamed up with Democrats to write the bill (Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R- S.C.), but Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who voted for the bill in the Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, is also now in Reid's pocket.

Throw in the other three reliably liberal Republican senators (Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mark Kirk. R-Ill., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska) and Reid has the eight Republicans he needs to beat a filibuster right there.

Not that he even needs 60. On the same day Schumer-Rubio won Judiciary approval, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised he would not filibuster the bill on the Senate floor.

In other words, if grass-roots conservatives have any hope of stopping the latest round of amnesty, their only hope is the House.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, did issue some encouraging words last month, promising that the House would not "simply take up and accept" the Senate bill. Instead, Boehner promised the House would produce its own legislation "through regular order."

That means at least one immigration bill will come through the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by amnesty-skeptic Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

Goodlatte has promised to pass a series of smaller bills that would each immigration address specific problems separately. One bill for border security, another for guest workers, a third for high-skill workers, etc. A path to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally would not be included.

On a parallel track, a group of House Democrats and Republicans have been working for months on their own comprehensive immigration bill that does include a path to citizenship.

The details have not been finalized yet but leaks from the group indicate it is tougher than Schumer-Rubio, especially when it comes to limiting entitlement program use by amnestied immigrants.

Ultimately, however, the substance of what is in the Goodlatte or bipartisan bills is irrelevant. All that really matters is how Boehner brings a bill to the floor.

If Boehner brings a House-created bill to the floor, whether its a Goodlatte bill or a path-to-citizenship bill, then you can expect a real fight over amnesty after that bill passes and it heads to the Senate.

But, if Boehner calls up the Senate's Schumer-Rubio bill, then the fix is in.

Once the House passes the shell of the Senate bill, no matter what policy is actually in it, that bill will go straight to conference committee. And conference can do whatever they want.

This means Boehner could call up the Senate bill, gut it, put in super tough Goodlatte reforms that a majority of House Republicans could vote for, and then pass it to conference committee.

Conference would then take the House-passed Senate bill, re-gut it, and put back in everything that is awful about Schumer-Rubio: the La Raza slush fund, the brand new wage-setting Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research, the instant legalization without any enforceable border security, etc.

That bill would then go back to the House where it would pass with near-unanimous Democratic support and a few Republican votes.

Everyone would win but the American people: Obama gets his big second-term accomplishment, K Street gets cheap labor for their big-business clients, La Raza gets amnesty and Republican leaders would claim they have clean hands since they produced an immigration bill that a majority of Republicans voted for.

The only losers would be American taxpayers who would be saddled with trillions in new entitlement burdens and working class Americans who would see their wages fall yet again.

Conn Carroll (ccarroll@washingtonexaminer.com) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.

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