Gird your loins: Obama tells Scott Brown immigration battle is coming soon

Makes me nervous, albeit not for the reason you’d think.

On the upside? Supreme Court nominee clusterfark + national meltdown over amnesty = best traffic month evah.

President Barack Obama called Massachusetts’ new Republican senator, Scott Brown, from Air Force One today to deliver some news: Democrats are moving forward with an immigration overhaul in a month.

Alluding to the issue a few minutes later, Brown clarified what he told Obama. “When I said I have an open mind, it means I have an open mind to read the bill,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I will vote for granting amnesty to anyone. But I want to be respectful to the president and to any member who brings me a proposal.”

After winning health care and advancing financial re-regulation, many Democrats thought the president’s big legislative agenda would be winding down. Election season is beginning, a Supreme Court nomination fight is at hand, and Democrats don’t lack for accomplishments, just political support. But Schumer has argued strongly that they should move forward with a broad overhaul of immigration laws, including a tough crack-down on border security and a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

Didn’t Harry Reid tell us just a week ago that immigration was going nowhere this year? I think he did, and notwithstanding today’s news, I think he’s right. And a lot of people who are in the know think so too:

Obama’s outreach to Brown is part of a quickly hatched, coordinated effort with congressional leaders to thrust the volatile immigration debate back to the front burner. At a joint House and Senate leadership meeting late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to House leaders that he would put an immigration bill on the floor this year—and he secured a commitment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the House will vote on immigration reform, according to a Democratic leadership source with knowledge of the meeting…

Graham is pessimistic. “No one’s spent any political capital laying the groundwork for this,” he told POLITICO Tuesday. “In 2007, with President Bush, you had two Cabinet secretaries up here for three days a week, two to three hours a day. That’s what it takes, and that’s what’s been missing,” he said…

Top Republican advocates on immigration reform remain very skeptical that the legislation will go anywhere this year.

“With the toxic environment after healthcare, I just don’t think you’re going to get a lot of moderate Democrats jumping into the comprehensive immigration debate this close to an election year,” Graham said.

I’ve explained before why I think this is basically a good idea for the Democrats. If it passes, Obama gets a big win and, presumably, a spike in Latino support ahead of the midterms. If it fails, he gets the amnesty groups and the Dems’ Latino caucus off his back — “hey, I tried!” — while blaming everything on those darned Republicans, which could mean a bump in Latino support for his side anyway regardless. It’s win-win. Even if a bunch of Blue Dogs vote no to protect themselves, how many of them come from districts where a “no” vote would be dangerous? My hunch is that The One knows this is a loser but wants it off the table ASAP and will go through the motions of drumming up support for it, like calling Scott Brown. Given the state of unemployment, even RINO types from deep blue states like Scotty B have a good excuse to vote no this year. So I’m not worried — yet.

What makes me nervous is the possibility that this isn’t a case of The One going through the motions but rather a sort of “kamikaze” mentality taking hold. If the Dems have now resigned themselves to the fact that they’re going to get hammered in November, they may go for broke and try to pass as much crap from their agenda as they can regardless of what it means for vulnerable Democrats. In fact, there’s an ominous story up at TPM about how Obama’s considering picking a truly left-wing nominee for the Supreme Court, ostensibly on grounds that he might as well go with a hard liberal since the GOP will oppose whoever he chooses. That’s stupid — Sotomayor got nine Republican votes and there’s no reason to think another center-left nominee wouldn’t do just as well — but it makes sense if The One’s decided to get aggressive before his congressional majority disintegrates. (In fact, I speculated about that on the day Stevens retired.) How you get Blue Dogs to go along with this is beyond me, but they went along with O-Care against all odds. Anything’s possible.

Here’s Democratic rep Luis Gutierrez, who initially threatened to vote against O-Care on immigration grounds, warning Obama that the time for talk is over.

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