House GOP could commit political suicide by defeating immigration reform

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If immigration goes down in the House, the chamber's Republican majority could well go down in the 2014 elections. In the Senate so far, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) deserves high grades for his handling of immigration. Of course, Rubio has said some things I strongly disagree with, but I will cut him some slack as he tries to maneuver Republicans and the Senate toward a responsible position.

The ultimate test for Rubio will be where he, and the Senate, come down on final passage. For now Rubio is doing well, acting like a serious legislator and a political player who understands the interests of his party and our country.

Contrast Rubio with the showboating partisanship of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a man who is strongly disliked even by many Senate Republicans and who gives no evidence of being either a serious legislator or a political player who understands the needs of either his party or our country.

While my guess is that the Speaker privately favors an approach similar to Rubio's and realizes that Cruz's approach could spell political suicide for Republicans in 2014 by powerfully alienating Hispanic voters for a generation, the acid test will come within the full conference of House Republicans.

This is a test House Republicans could well fail. In the House, the final disposition of immigration will probably represent either Boehner's finest hour or his greatest failure as Speaker. There is a kamikaze caucus of House Republicans that is determined to destroy true immigration reform.

In the end, the Speaker will have to stare them down within the Republican Conference and/or make a side deal with Democratic leaders to pass a bill that many Republican members will adamantly oppose. The political stakes are enormous. 

House Democrats have already begun running television ads in districts represented by Republicans with large Hispanic populations. There are some Republicans with a demographic death wish who persist in alienating waves of female and Hispanic voters, and if they prevail, the Speaker's gavel might well change hands after the 2014 elections. 

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