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Immigration: Three up in the House, three down

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) essentially ducked the question today about whether she would take up immigration reform, now that the controversial legislation has been tabled again in the Senate.

Saying she had "anticipated that we would be working on an immigration bill soon", Pelosi added that the bill's demise in the Senate would make her rethink the matter. "My conversations with our leaders on this issue in the House, as well as interested parties throughout our caucus, is that we'll come back in a week, take stock of what the options are and go from there," Pelosi told reporters.

That doesn't exactly sound like a leader rushing to take up a highly contentious issue. And with good reason: Unlike the Senate, where Republicans were more sharply divided on the issue, the House presents a much more challenging environment for Democrats, whose more than 230 members span the ideological divide more so than Republicans.

Pelosi appears headed toward the conclusion that bringing up immigration legislation would only serve to put the 30 to 40 Democrats from conservative districts in a political bind. If the legislation can't get passed in the Senate, it can't become law - so why bother putting those Democrats in a political pinch?

With that outcome likely, Capitol Briefing brings back "Three Up, Three Down", a look at three politicians who benefited from this past week's actions and three who didn't. [Three weeks ago we looked at the Senate for "Three Up, Three Down" on immigration, so today's lineup will focus on the House and who won/lost based on the Senate's inaction.]


• Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio): Things couldn't have played out much better for the House minority leader. He was fairly outspoken in his opposition to the Senate bill, which was being backed boisterously by President Bush, so Boehner won kudos from within his own conference for staking out a position independent of the White House and the Senate. He allowed an internal conference vote (114-23) on a resolution disapproving of the Senate bill. And, most importantly, because the bill failed in the Senate and isn't likely to come up in the House, Boehner's actions didn't' alienate the White House very much. He won't come under any heat from Bush next month to let more of his own troops support immigration reform.

• Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.): It's tough enough trying to fill Rep. Rahm Emanuel's shoes as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because of the Chicago Democrat's finely tuned media image. But the immigration legislation, were it to come to the floor, would put the 30 Democrats in battleground seats in a tough bind, particularly the dozens of districts where the anti-illegal-immigrant movement is so strong. Now, Van Hollen can stick to out-raising Republicans in terms of money while telling potential recruits that the political environment is still anti-Republican.

• Candidate GiuRomSon: That's my word for anyone but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Of the top tier Republican presidential candidates, McCain was the only backer of this bill, with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson all opposed. In terms of winning endorsements from House Republicans, where McCain is already lagging behind Romney, this will only hurt McCain. Thompson's opposition will help solidify his support among southern Republicans, whom he'll need as his base with his late-starting campaign.


• Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.): The former Redskins quarterback had a bad week, and not just because he went 0-3 with two strikeouts in his debut as a member of the Democratic baseball team. Shuler had already signaled his opposition to the Senate bill by joining the House Immigration Reform Caucus, a group of mostly conservative lawmakers very opposed to any bill that would provide a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants. So how did Shuler lose if a bill he likely opposed failed? Because Shuler hails from a conservative western North Carolina district, with GOP strategists licking their chops to beat him up over his support of the "San Francisco Liberal Agenda." It actually would have been a big sign of independence from Pelosi if he had the chance to stand up and vote against his leadership on the highest profile domestic issue of the year.

• Rep Tom Tancredo (R-Colo): Tancredo's presidential campaign is going nowhere fast. Had the bill made its way to the House floor, Tancredo would have been one of the floor leaders in opposition and received lots of time on the airwaves. Any little bit of exposure would have helped.

• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (R-White House): Sure, Gonzales isn't actually a member of Congress. But immigration is no longer on the agenda for the House and Senate Judiciary committees. Consider this: on multiple occasions this week Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) declined to discuss with Capitol Briefing the latest developments in the ongoing saga over the fired U.S. attorneys, saying he was too focused on the immigration fight on the Senate floor. By 3 p.m. yesterday, four hours after the Senate's immigration vote failed, Specter convened a press conference to discuss the scandal and spent a good deal of his time blasting Gonzales. So, any minute Specter is not spending on immigration, that's just one more minute he can commit to making Gonzales's tenure miserable.

By Paul Kane  |  June 29, 2007; 4:53 PM ET
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