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Did the Shutdown Help the Immigration Cause?

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Arizona families with the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition hold hands and pray in front of Boehner’s office Tuesday in the Longworth House Office Building. The event was held to launch a week of prayer for Boehner to act on immigration legislation.

Advocates of an immigration overhaul may see a silver lining in the recent 16-day government shutdown for their cause in the House, sensing that Republicans will want to win back some of the popular support they lost over the past month.

But House GOP insiders remain skeptical that the fractured Republican Conference will be able to get something done on the issue anytime soon.

Backers of a rewrite of immigration laws view the recent plunge in Republican favorability ratings as an opening for the party to push the immigration issue and help repair the GOP brand. Even so, action may be stymied by continued infighting over government spending and lawmakers who have little interest in helping the party resuscitate its damaged reputation.

Sources familiar with the thinking of Republican leaders and the rowdy conservatives who clash with them are pessimistic about the party’s ability to come together, even if immigration changes enjoy popular support with voters and among the party.

“I would ask these immigration proponents, ‘Does our party look like it’s doing a good job of actively managing our favorables?’” one GOP aide questioned. “Does the [Republican National Committee] want us to do something? Sure it does, to give them talking points headed into 2016, making the party look like it’s more reasonable and in tune with demographics a Republican presidential candidate might need. Is that something that’s actually viable in the House? No. It’s not.”

Another Republican aide predicted, “There is no chance the House brings anything to a vote. I’m pretty confident you don’t have anyone in Republican leadership in the House telling you it would be good to vote on it. Just not going to happen, no matter how much [the president] wants to change the debate to that issue.”

Then there’s the timing of the next budget fight.

The bipartisan deal to reopen the government — requiring a budget conference report in December, a continuing resolution by mid-January and an increase in the debt limit in February — may prevent the House from acting on any immigration bills until spring 2014 at the earliest, sources on both sides say.

While Republicans may have reason to worry about the 2014 midterms, immigration supporters say passage of an overhaul is more important for the GOP’s ability to take back the White House in the 2016 election. They contend that extends the window for House action into next year.

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