U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, has now shown what it would look like if House Republicans seek to kill immigration reform while trying to evade blame for it.

Worse for Democrats, the GOP might not face electoral repercussions for killing reform in next year’s midterms.

“The bills that House Republicans support may go nowhere,” the Huffington Post’s Elise Foley reported Goodlatte as saying at a town hall last week.

“‘Will the Senate agree to them? I don’t know,’ Goodlatte said. ‘But I don’t think Republicans in the House … should back away from the right way to do things.’

“‘Even if it doesn’t go all the way through to be signed by this president … it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least show the American people that we are interested in solving this very serious problem.'”

One way to read this: As long as House Republicans pass a few immigration reform measures of their own, they will have demonstrated to the American people that they want to solve the problem, and it won’t matter whether their efforts result in a compromise with Democrats.

The notion that Republicans can avoid blame for killing immigration reform seems daft — even Republicans say willingness to discuss reform is more about repairing relations with Latinos than doing something the American people on the whole want. Polls suggest that Latinos would blame Republicans if reform fails.

But Latino communities and the areas where House Republicans are vulnerable don’t exactly overlap. There are only 12 GOP-held House districts that Democrats have a good chance of winning in 2014 (though this could change), according to David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Only five have large enough Latino populations that turnout could plausibly make a difference next year.

Ultimately the fate of immigration reform rests with the GOP leadership. But the electoral consequences of killing reform won’t be felt until after 2014.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog.

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