Why Immigration Reform Will Survive Obama's Scandals

PHOTO: In this April 18, 2013 file photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., second from right, speaks about immigration reform during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The trio of scandals facing President Obama have many in Washington asking whether this marks the beginning of the end for his legislative agenda.

An issue such as tax reform might be impeded considering that the Internal Revenue Service is at the center of one of the scandals. But an initiative that could emerge unscathed, or even strengthened, is immigration reform.

Before the scandals, immigration appeared to be the item on Obama's second-term agenda that seemed likeliest to pass through Congress. Deep fault lines have developed between both parties on issues like gun control, the deficit, and debt reduction. But on immigration, there is strong political incentive for GOP leaders in Washington to join in the effort to pass a bill. And the scandals haven't changed that.

Although it's only been a few days since the scandals have overtaken the political atmosphere in Washington, developments on immigration have quietly chugged along. A bipartisan group in the House announced Thursday evening they have reached a deal in principle on a comprehensive bill after four years of on-again, off-again talks. And in just three markup sessions, the Senate Judiciary Committee has considered 82 of the 300 amendments offered by its members, over a quarter of the total.

Supporters and opponents of the bill believe that the immigration reform effort can make it through the scandal-obsessed environment in Washington.

"I think the conditions are ripe for the [immigration] bill to make it through. The president's been very helpful. He's been there when we've asked him to be, he's laid low when we ask him, and I've got no complaints about the president and I think he can be very helpful getting it over the finish line," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Gang of Eight, told Politico. The publication noted that he is one of "Obama's chief Benghazi critics."

Mickey Kaus, a political blogger and well known critic of the Senate Gang of Eight bill, said last week that the scandals could take away attention from the immigration reform effort, claiming that could improve its chances of success.

"I actually think these distracting scandals help the bill's chances of passage," he said at an event sponsored by BuzzFeed. "The problem with this bill is: the elites like it, the voters don't like it. Every time there is publicity, every time it's at center stage, its chances of passage get worse."

(We would note that polls show that Americans who know about the bill are divided over it, while a plurality haven't yet formed an opinion. But moving on...)

So, yes, there are plenty of reasons immigration reform might fail. But scandals just aren't one of them.

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