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EDITORIAL: Farewell to amnesty

The speaker pronounces immigration bill dead in Congress

President Obama's relentless bridge-burning strategy to get his way on the budget and health care legislation turns out to have an unexpected advantage for Republicans still smarting from the sting of defeat at the hand of the president. They might not be interested in surrendering to another licking on another big-ticket legislative item.

House Speaker John A. Boehner pronounced the death of the Senate's amnesty legislation, to nobody's surprise. "The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read," the speaker said Wednesday, "which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House." Lest there be any room for doubt, he added read-my-lips assurance. "I'll make it clear, we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."

Mr. Boehner made his announcement several hours after two backers of the Senate amnesty bill attempted to ruin breakfast at his favorite Capitol Hill diner. The Fair Immigration Reform Movement sent two teenage "Dreamers," video camera in hand, to confront the speaker and his bacon and eggs with heartstring-tugging stories of how their parents are at risk of deportation without an amnesty. Mr. Boehner listened politely and sent them on their way with his good wishes. The would-be sandbaggers persuaded the speaker only that he should put an end to speculation about the prospects of the amnesty bill in the House.

Republican members of the Gang of Eight are having second thoughts about their participation in the amnesty campaign, too. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was first to back away. Sen. John McCain, perhaps the most dedicated Republican fan of amnesty, showed signs of second thoughts Wednesday at the confirmation hearing for Jeh C. Johnson as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Johnson lost Mr. McCain's support when he declined to provide detailed information on what Customs and Border Protection needs to provide "90 percent" control of the U.S.-Mexican border.

The clock is rapidly running out on a session of Congress that must revisit negotiations on the continuing resolution on the budget, the debt limit, the farm bill and other matters. There isn't enough time before the end of the year to consider even the narrowly tailored immigration-reform bills already cleared by House committees. The Senate bill would follow all that.

Some of the backers of amnesty profess to be worried about the future of Republicans. (Who knew?) Frank Sharry of the pro-amnesty America's Voice says "the future of the GOP depends on what the House Republican leadership decides to do on immigration reform." This concern by liberals like Mr. Sharry may, or may not, touch the speaker's heart, but it's not persuasive. The more perceptive Republicans understand that Democrats regard amnesty as the key to importing millions of Democratic votes.

The Gang of Eight will likely come alive again next year, but not without first recruiting one or two or even three new gangbangers. Given the election-year realities, amnesty is not likely to get to the Oval Office next year, either. The Gang of Eight has been exposed as the gang that can't shoot straight. So far they've put a hole only in amnesty.

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