Before the details were unveiled Thursday afternoon, Mr. Schumer reaches the South Carolinian by cellphone at his office in the Russell Senate Office Building to get “the story straight,” as Mr. Graham later puts it. I hear Mr. Graham’s half of the conversation. “Here was the breakthrough, Chuck, going big on the border,” he says. “I’ve always been thinking there will come a point when we want to just overwhelm the critics on the border and we found that opportunity. . . . You’re a good man. Bye.”…
Mr. Graham and John McCain, his closest friend in the Senate, took part in the stillborn effort of 2007. “What I’m not going to let happen this time is let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Mr. Graham says. “Those are your choices: Status quo or the Gang of Eight bill.”…
“Schumer’s been incredible,” Mr. Graham says. “He’s a worthy successor to Ted Kennedy, and that’s saying a lot.” Marco Rubio, who joined the Gang of Eight in January, “has been a game-changer who’s been terrific on our side.” Dick Durbin, Mr. Graham says, is “tough but practical, always fighting for [organized] labor’s interest.”
Even Corker — one of the two senators whose names are atop the amendment — said Thursday that he doesn’t think it goes far enough to make sure that immigration laws are enforced away from the border.
The union that represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers says its members have been hamstrung by policies limiting their ability to arrest foreigners who are in the United States illegally, and that the pending legislation and border surge amendment do little to address that.
Corker said Thursday that he wanted to add that type of enforcement to the surge measure, but could not. He didn’t say exactly why that was the case, but it’s likely Democratic senators or the White House may have objected.
“I do wish this amendment had some other measures relative to interior security, but I think the House can improve this,” he said. “I think a conference can improve this. So I hope we have the opportunity down the road to see that occur.”
The Senate Conservatives Fund, once affiliated with former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, is accusing McConnell of “quietly allowing” the Gang of Eight bill to move through the upper chamber. In an email to supporters, the fund’s executive director Matt Hoskins urged the Kentucky Republican not only to oppose the bill, but also to rally his entire caucus in opposition.
“A simple ‘No’ vote is not enough from a leader. We’re asking Senator McConnell to use his position as the Republican Leader to defeat it,” Hoskins wrote on Saturday morning…
Like most members of the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell has not indicated how he will vote on the final bill or its new border security title negotiated by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and the Gang of Eight. However, he has said the underlying Gang of Eight bill has “serious flaws.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner recently offered an interesting perspective on how Republicans should approach the immigration bill: “I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans.” Instead, he wants to pass a bill in the House with a “majority of the majority.”
That makes a lot of sense, and it makes you wonder why none of the Republican leaders in the Senate seem to have thought of it. Instead, they spent all of their time negotiating with Chuck Schumer in the Gang of Eight, instead of first figuring out what they needed to do to get their own people on board. But perhaps that would have required guys like John McCain and Lindsey Graham to sit down and take seriously the hotheads and “wacko birds” like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
As I have argued, this was an issue on which the Republicans really needed a leader or leaders who would show they could bridge the divisions in their party and get everyone to back a common approach. The fact that no one rose to that leadership challenge is a bad sign for 2016, because it means that none of the rising stars in Congress was able to demonstrate the leadership skills that would really qualify him for a future presidential run.
The legislative strategy pursued by the Gang of Eight in the last few days strikes me as a little strange. The response to the CBO analysis of the bill—which said it would reduce the deficit but do fairly little to reduce illegal immigration—has been to throw money at the border, in an effort to keep alive the possibility of getting 70 votes in the Senate. Both the means and the end of that strategy seem ill-considered, from the point of view of the bill’s champions.
The means seem unwise because surely a major concession on border security is the most plausible card they could play with the House when the time comes, and playing it now leaves them with nothing obvious to give the House later on—no significant-seeming change to the bill that Democrats could live with but that might move some meaningful number of Republicans. Assuming they are not concerned about getting the 60 votes they need to actually pass their bill in the Senate (a number they seem likely to reach without the Corker amendment or a similar concession), making this concession now makes the ultimate enactment of a bill along the lines of theirs less likely, and perhaps significantly less likely.
They’re doing it, we are told, to get to 70 votes. But why is that an important goal? By what logic would it make a Republican member of the House more likely to vote for the bill? A 70 vote margin made up of all 54 Senate Democrats and 16 of the chamber’s 46 Republicans isn’t going to move a lot of House Republicans. Surely the number of votes doesn’t amount to a substantive argument for the bill, and as a political argument I don’t see why the prospect of aligning with Senate Democrats against nearly two thirds of the Senate Republicans would be appealing to a skeptical House member.
The more likely message that a larger Senate margin would send to the House is that there is a lot of room for changes in the bill.
So that’s what comprehensive immigration reform looks like. Stronger enforcement. A smarter legal immigration system. A pathway to earned citizenship. A more vibrant, growing economy that’s fairer on the middle class. And a more stable fiscal future for our kids.
Now, the bill isn’t perfect. It’s a compromise. Nobody is going to get everything they want – not Democrats, not Republicans, not me. But it’s consistent with the principles that I and others have laid out for commonsense reform. That’s why Republicans and Democrats, CEOs and labor leaders, are saying that now is the time to pass this bill. If you agree with us, reach out to your Senators and Representatives. Tell them that the time for excuses is over; it’s time to fix our broken immigration system once and for all.
We can do this, because we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; a place enriched by the contributions of people from all over the world, and stronger for it. That’s been the story of America from the start. Let’s keep it going.