Now another step to the right! New GOP border bill chases Michele Bachmann support

After yesterday's failure, Boehner again will try to pass a border bill -- by making it even more ridiculous

Published August 1, 2014 3:39PM (EDT)

John Boehner                                      (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
John Boehner (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

A day after Speaker John Boehner's latest failure to pass a bill, and new Majority Whip Steve Scalise's first, somehow the House GOP once again believes it can pass a border bill, perhaps today.

Certain self-imposed gimmicky rules, like requiring a bill to be posted for three days, will have to be waived. But whatever. "Rules."

"Multiple changes" to the bill, which has already been dragged far to the right over the last week, are being made. Perhaps most interestingly, the new bill will cost $35 million more than the one that suffered a defeat at the hands of conservatives. That additional funding will go to the National Guard and will be delivered directly to governors, so the Imperial President and his Executive Branch Minions can't get their dirty hands on it and illicitly use it for amnesty or abortions or Katy Perry concerts.

Other language, according to members, will merely "tighten" or make "technical changes" to already conservative portions of the bill. "The new legislation," Politico reports,  "...uses new language penned by Texas Rep. John Carter and Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt to change a 2008 trafficking law that made it harder to deport children from countries other than Canada and Mexico." Roll Call adds that "[i]t would also allow immigration enforcement officials to detain children while they wait for deportation hearings and require immigration enforcement officials to investigate people taking custody of undocumented immigrant children to determine whether they are being compensated by drug smugglers." Sounds lovely, and a little more than a "technical change." And on the DACA side, Rep. Marsha Blackburn's stricter proposal to end President Obama's program for undocumented immigrants under 31 who came here as children would be adopted.

For supposedly modest, technical tweaks, the changes appear to be swaying hard-liners like Reps. Michele Bachmann and Steve King, who thought yesterday's bill was so bad that it was worth humiliating the Republican Party over.

Interestingly, one person who's playing it safe with his public comments, lest he get even more egg on his face, is new Majority Whip Scalise. "There are those that want to go back to the original Blackburn DACA language, tighten up the asylum language," Scalise told reporters outside this morning's conference meeting. "But again, every time we do that we seem to lose people on the other end. So I don’t know. I think it’s just a matter of rewriting the text.”

The people on the "other end" -- the few remaining moderates in the House GOP -- tend to be more naturally aligned with Boehner and probably wouldn't blow this up and heap further embarrassment on the speaker. Besides, they want to go on vacation. We'll see.

But once again we're in a situation where having to move the bill further and further right, until a comical extremity is finally reached, ruins whatever leverage the House had against the Senate. If today's changes even make House GOP moderates queasy, it's only going to be more anathema than it already was to Senate Democrats. The whole idea of getting this bill through was to jam the Senate ahead of the August recess. Senate Republicans were playing along with this scheme by filibustering the Senate's own border supplemental last night, allowing the House bill to be the only game in town. But now that the House bill has moved so far to the right to support GOP-only passage, it gives Senate Democrats a more credible means of dismissing it as an unworkable non-starter.

This has been the same dynamic in all of the House's high-profile attempts to jam the Senate. During the 2011 debt ceiling fight, it was impossible to move a bill out of the House unless it contained ridiculous measures like amendments to the Constitution. And in the fight that led to last year's government shutdown, Boehner couldn't move any spending bill that didn't defund Obamacare. Such insertions removed the pressure from Harry Reid to take up and work with the House's bills. Now we're in another case where the failure of yesterday's supplemental made it quite clear to the public that the House has had to make this bill palatable to the far right, by making it a far-right bill, in order to move it. Why should Reid feel pressure to act on that?

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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