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Wonkbook: Cantor’s stunning loss likely means immigration reform is dead

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June 11 at 8:48 AM

Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 4.5 million. That’s the number of U.S. job openings in April, the most in seven years and another sign of the labor market’s continuing recovery.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: These charts  show that U.S. is generating millionaires faster than anywhere in the world — except China.

Wonkbook’s Top 5 Stories: (1) One primary may have killed immigration reform; (2) can we truly recover from the Great Recession?; (3) amid shootings, a look at school safety; (4) small- business Obamacare headaches; and (5) swift VA legislating.

1. Top story: What Cantor’s loss means for immigration reform and the political landscape

Cantor loses primary in shocker after his support for pathway to citizenship. “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos….The dour and businesslike Cantor had embraced confrontation enough to alienate some establishment types….But he also had made moves that alienated the party’s confrontational wing. Cantor, for instance, had championed a Republican version of the Dream Act, which would enable some illegal immigrants who entered the country as children to qualify for in- state college tuition rates. Although he never brought the legislation to the House floor, his support for the idea irritated staunch opponents of immigration reform.” Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella and David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.

Primary source: Read Cantor’s anti-“amnesty” mailers. Dara Lind in Vox.

Context: GOP members who
backed immigration reform easily survived primary challenges.
“Some other Republicans who have been much more supportive of overhauling immigration laws have easily survived primary challenges. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), an author and champion of the Senate immigration bill, topped 50% in a crowded field to avoid a runoff in his race for a third term. In North Carolina, Rep. Renee Ellmers last month won her GOP primary against an opponent who made similar attacks. Both Mr. Graham and Ms. Ellmers defended their support for immigration legislation while Mr. Cantor portrayed himself as equally opposed to ‘amnesty.'” Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal.

Still, Cantor’s primary loss could imperil immigration reform. “Mr. Cantor took a somewhat more moderate stance on the issue by supporting a pathway for young undocumented immigrants to gain legal status….Nonetheless, immigration may have played a more prominent role in Mr. Cantor’s race than in those races. Regardless of the exact reason for Mr. Cantor’s defeat, the news media’s focus on immigration is likely to deter Republicans from supporting comprehensive immigration reform.” Nate Cohn in The New York Times.

@BenjySarlin: Cantor losing makes immigration reform seem near impossible this year — there will be a panic after this

Public opinion on immigration likely not passionate enough to sway
“Despite a year of contentious national debate and several stalled congressional proposals, Americans still overwhelmingly agree that illegal immigrants living in the United States should be allowed to remain in the country and seek some form of legal status, according to a survey….62 percent of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants a way to become citizens, compared with 63 percent a year ago. An additional 17 percent said in the new poll that illegal immigrants should be able to become legal residents but not full citizens….Stability of views aside, Americans place immigration reform far below jobs, the economy and health care as a priority.” Pam Constable and Michelle Boorstein in The Washington Post.

Charts: What do Americans want on immigration reform? It varies by region. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

@Goldfarb: Immigration was always a long shot this year, but smart minds saw opportunities over the summer and in the lame duck.

How the child-migrant border crisis is complicating immigration reform’s
“Just as the president has been trying to show his immigration enforcement policies are working, the situation has become more complicated with the increase of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. border….The childrens’ arrivals already have been tagged by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., as ‘administration- made’ and are happening at a critical time. These summer months were to be the last chance for the House GOP to act on immigration reform before Obama took some presidential action on immigration.” Suzanne Gamboa in NBC News.

Vice versa: Lack of reform is putting the children’s futures in limbo. “A surge of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. illegally is spiraling into a full-blown humanitarian crisis trapping thousands of children in political stagnation over immigration reform….The emergency efforts are a band-aid for larger problems that extend beyond U.S. borders, and raise concerns over whether the facilities are equipped to handle the rapid increase of children….The move is just the latest action Obama has taken on immigration as comprehensive reform continues to languish on Capitol Hill….But for refugee advocates, the problems run deeper than a political impasse in Congress.” Amanda Sakuma in MSNBC.

The administration’s latest move: Opening another military base to handle the influx of child migrants. Reuters.

Senate Democrats want to double funding for child migrants. “Senate Democrats moved Tuesday to double the available funding for the care and resettlement of child migrants on the Southwest border — a $1 billion increase that comes at the expense of President Barack Obama’s prized education initiatives. The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee is the strongest response yet by Congress to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Rio Grande Valley. But it also captures the conflicts between the president and his own party — each subject to strict spending caps adopted last December.” David Rogers

Other immigration reads:

Migrant surge tests deportation slowdown. Justin Sink and Amie Parnes in The Hill.

VINIK: For GOP, there’s much more at stake than immigration reform itself. “The immediate policy implications of this are clear: Immigration reform is completely dead. It was a very longshot before Tuesday night. Now, it’s 100 percent over. Cantor’s loss shows how toxic the subject is for any incumbent Republican. It doesn’t bode well for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential ambitions as well. But it also doesn’t bode well for the party as a whole. Immigration reform is going to continue being a national issue. Republicans will still have to take a stance on it — and the only stance they can take is one that alienates Hispanics.” Danny Vinik in The New Republic.

@JHWeissmann: Man, the GOP is really damned if they do, damned if they don’t at this point

LIND: Reform never stood much of a chance anyway. “It’s not as if the House was about to take up immigration reform this summer. Far from it. With only a handful of days in session over the summer, and the threat of executive action looming this fall, the House gave no indication that it was considering any immigration bill. The bills that had passed out of committee on 2013 appeared to have been abandoned by House leadership. The principles that leading Republicans released on immigration reform in January 2014 got shelved less than a week later. And every time Speaker John Boehner even went on the record talking about the need to persuade the caucus to act on immigration, he had to backpedal.” Dara Lind in Vox.

PONNURU: Nobody really knows what it means. “It is easy enough to attribute his defeat to the sentiment among conservatives that Cantor is not sufficiently hostile to an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and that the Republican establishment is too squishy….But then why did Senator Lindsey Graham, who vocally championed the immigration bill while Cantor distanced himself from it, win walking away in conservative South Carolina? Why did Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is just as much an establishment figure as Cantor, and more favorable to the immigration bill, thump his primary opponent a few weeks ago?” Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View.