WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON — Here's an odd political reality: The collapse of the gun bill in the Senate last week may well make the passage of immigration reform legislation slightly easier.
"I think the continued intensity of the dysfunction of Congress on this [gun] vote will help immigration," Democratic pollster John Anzalone said. "I don't think the opposing senators — Democrats and Republicans — expected the reaction, backlash and how they were portrayed" in the wake of the failure of the amendment to expand background checks for firearm purchases.
The simple fact is that for Republicans broadly and Democrats in swing states — particularly those up for reelection next year — voting in favor of legislation that would restrict gun rights and overhaul the immigration system was too much to swallow. (And that's not even considering the impact the move toward supporting gay marriage has had on the electoral calculations of these members.)
With the gun bill gone from the legislative calendar for the foreseeable future, immigration becomes a more-doable vote for conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans — as well as senators with large Hispanic populations in their states. Simply put: Unlike guns, senators may well be looking for a way to get to "yes" rather than "no" on immigration.
There are several other reasons — aside from timing — that the political calculus around the immigration bill is different from that of guns.
First and foremost, immigration has been a bipartisan effort for months while the gun bill was a last-minute attempt by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey , R-Pa., to patch together a deal to save legislation that was headed for defeat.
Not only has the "Gang of Eight" been working on an immigration compromise since the November election, but it includes a leading light of the conservative/tea party movement in Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. And even people like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who vehemently opposed the gun bill, have expressed some measure of support for changing the country's immigration policies. "Republicans in Congress have adequate cover on the right to vote for immigration reform," said one senior Democratic aide closely monitoring the issue.