Conservatives Refuse to Support Immigration Bill Because It’s Too Heavy

Conservatives still oppose First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity program, because of freedom. But when it comes to progressive legislation, the right-wing gets very weight conscious.

This started with the Affordable Care Act, which reportedly totaled 2074 pages and weighed 20.9 pounds. That was, of course, “too much to swallow.” I guess some people need extra fiber in their diets.

Regardless, this junk food argument is back with immigration reform, courtesy of the Washington Times‘ Stephen Dinan:

At 1,075 pages long, it’s not the biggest bill to come through in recent years – that honor still belongs to the health care law – but the immigration legislation pending in the Senate is challenging the ability of voters to get their brains around its complexity.

Touching on everything from border security to welfare programs to free trade, the massive bill is dominating legislative action this month on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are intent on pushing it through before July 4 and Republicans are trying to debate whether to go along.

One group has weighed the printed bill and said it comes to 24 pounds. That doesn’t include the 448 pages of amendments that have been filed to try to change the measure.

The Senate’s immigration reform bill is less than half the page length of Obamacare, yet it supposedly weighs four pounds more. Maybe they used that paper you get in formal invitations. The kind of paper that whispers: “This is a weighty occasion.”

Regardless, Dinan reports that House Republicans think the bill needs a diet:

The bill’s authors say the breadth of the bill is critical and that all parts must be considered together in order to keep a coalition in place. That means tying border security, stricter workplace enforcement, a rewrite of the legal-immigration system and a program to legalize 11 million illegal immigrants all into the same bill.

The House, though, is rebelling.

Late last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, announced that he would begin taking up pieces of the immigration puzzle: a 53-page bill to create a guest-worker program for agriculture and a 174-page bill to bolster interior immigration enforcement.

“For far too long, the standard operating procedure in Washington has been to rush large pieces of legislation through Congress with little opportunity for elected officials and the American people to scrutinize and understand them,” said Mr. Goodlatte. “Immigration reform is too important and complex to not examine each piece in detail.”

That would allow Republicans to say “I voted for immigration reform!” without having to compromise on provisions they don’t want. But they frame it as letting “elected officials and the American people scrutinize and understand” legislation.

The deeper problem, as Slate‘s Christopher Beam explained in 2009, is our increasingly polarized Congress:

Bills are getting longer because they’re getting harder to pass. Increased partisanship over the years has meant that the minority party is willing to do anything it can to block legislation – adding amendments, filibustering, or otherwise stalling the lawmaking process. As a result, the majority party feels the need to pack as much meat into a bill as it can – otherwise, the provisions might never get through.

If Congress took immigration reform piecemeal, Republicans would vote for stand-alone conservative provisions (ever more border security, allowing ‘guest’ farm workers with no hope of citizenship) and against stand-alone progressive provisions (path to citizenship for undocumented workers, protecting them from abusive employers). Knowing it would be foolish to support conservative bills and get nothing in return, Democrats would reciprocate … and no bill would pass.

Legislative compromise requires bills that include provisions to attract enough votes to pass each chamber. That means longer bills, which conservatives claim to oppose “because the bill is too much to swallow” … when what they really mean is “I want to have my cake and eat it too.”

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