Now that the Senate has passed immigration reform, the fate of the bill rests in the hands of the House. Although Speaker Boehner has emphasized that he would work to pass a bill, many have questioned his ability to corral the necessary votes after the farm bill brought to the floor of the House took a nosedive.
The path to immigration reform in the House has always been trickier. Local political considerations for many conservative members of the House may conflict with those of the national Republican party. On the national level, party luminaries see potentially catastrophic losses in future elections if the Hispanic community holds Republicans responsible for sinking immigration reform. On the local level, however, some House members fear that their predominantly conservative constituents will punish them at the polls if they vote for the bill. Thus, the national interests of the party may not coincide with local politics. And House politics is very local.
A new conservative talking point has emerged in recent days. Some prominent conservatives claim that Republican support for an immigration reform bill will not help at the polls and may, in fact, do the opposite because it will make a percentage of core conservatives less likely to vote.
Republicans are right to question whether their support for an immigration reform bill will benefit them in future elections. But part of the reason they are right comes down to the way in which they are approaching the issue. To illustrate, picture a married couple that gets into a fight. The wife asks the husband to apologize for a rude comment. The husband says he is sorry but the wife does not feel vindicated because the husband's tone implies that he is not really sorry - rather, he just wants the fight to be over.
The overall perception of the Republican party on immigration reform has the same tonal problems. Even if the bill passes, many will perceive Republican votes in favor of immigration reform as a hollow I'm sorry, which minimizes its potential benefits. Because Republicans did not enter the immigration reform debate with a unified national front, they've already minimized the potential benefit they could have obtained by supporting a bill. (That's not to say there aren't legitimate reasons why many Republicans have been hesitant - there certainly are.) They can either stubbornly refuse to say they're sorry and accept whatever benefits or consequences come with it, or they can begrudgingly try to sound genuine and hope the response is sufficient to make the problem go away.