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It's Never Been More Clear that Republicans Are Killing Immigration Reform

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Cover enough press conferences on Capitol Hill and you'll quickly develop a reliable taxonomy of reporters. Among others, there are dogged beat-workers, who use the access to extrude whatever information they can from legislators and advance their stories; and there are headline makers who want the quote—or better yet the footage—that makes the evening news that night or the front page the next day.

At two different Capitol press conferences Thursday, Fusion's Jorge Ramos managed to pull off both. And in so doing he gave the regulars a crash course in the twin frustrations immigration reformers and immigrants themselves have been dealing with for months now.

"Why are you blocking immigration reform?" he asked John Boehner, who bobbed and weaved around Ramos' haymakers using familiar excuses about how it's all Barack Obama's fault.

On the other side of the Capitol he pressed Harry Reid with equal bluntness.

"Why are you keeping hope alive?" he asked. "I didn't hear neither one of you to say, to ask President Obama to stop deportations. He has deported more than two million people. He has destroyed thousands of families. Why not put the pressure now on the White House?"

There are a thousand different ways for people in the national media to game immigration reform. In fact, the legislative side of the story has stalled so completely that parlor games are almost all that's left. Will John Boehner do anything at all? Can he? Would failing to pass immigration reform really be fatal to the GOP's prospects in 2016? Or is that just an elaborate liberal head fake?

More often than not, though, these parlor games ignore or underplay how infuriating the entire mess is to actual people in actual immigrant communities. Though the source of gridlock isn't lost on most people, their frustration isn't directed solely at Republicans. Ramos conveyed that anger. But he also moved the ball.

Fusion spliced the encounters in the clip below.

But they left the biggest news on the cutting room floor.

“We waited 329 days; we're willing to wait another six weeks, but at the end of six weeks, if something hasn't been done, then there's going to have to be a move made,” Reid said with regard specifically to deportations.

That's not Reid's call to make. But it almost certainly reflects the Obama administration's thinking—even if they'd prefer Reid not lord it over Republicans quite so menacingly.

If politics were more like economics, the incentives Ramos helped reveal would point to swift passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House. Republican legislative inaction infuriates immigrants; Obama's executive inaction also infuriates immigrants; but Obama is likely to act on his own; thus, if Republicans want to neutralize the issue, they need to pass a bill rather than allow all the glory to flow to Obama.

But the politics stack up much differently, and in a way they reveal (again!) that House conservatives are the only impediment to reform. When you ditch the assumption that the fate of immigration reform is in the hands of rational actors who both want a similar outcome, you find that Obama's clear pivot toward administrative action makes it less likely that Boehner will stop blocking immigration reform. Not that he'd stop blocking it under any circumstances, but caving to pressure from Obama would make the hardliners in his conference even more restive. Whatever his motives, if you believe Boehner actually wants to pass reforms that legalize millions of immigrants, then either: He's facing intense internal pressure not to act, and he places a higher near-term value on party unity (and his job) than on taking the issue off the table; or he's going to shock the country within the next six weeks.

Occam's razor has pointed to the former for a long time now. Boehner even admitted it! But it was much easier to obscure before we were this close to the summer deadline, and still stuck in the same dynamic.