McCain: Immigration reform won't win us a single Latino vote but we must do it anyway

Straight talk.

“I believe if we pass this legislation, it won’t gain us a single Hispanic vote, but what it will do is put us a playing field where we can compete. Right now we can’t compete,” he said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “The numbers in the last couple of elections authenticate that statement…

“I would just try to show my friends, particularly in states like mine and the state of Texas where the demographics should be convincing,” he said. “Six or eight years from now we will have if not a majority, a near to majority Hispanic population in my state. So it is a demographic certainty, that if we condemn ourselves to 15 or 20 percent of the Hispanic vote, we will not win elections.”

Forget all the stuff you know about polls showing that Latinos support ObamaCare, gay marriage, bigger government, and various and sundry other policies that most conservatives oppose. Forget all the electoral arguments. If this is Maverick’s core rationale for passing the Gang of Eight bill, that the GOP simply can’t remain competitive without a grand pander on immigration, then it really doesn’t matter what the details of the final bill are, right? From his standpoint, the policy implications of the bill are entirely irrelevant. If Schumer turned around tomorrow and demanded a blanket amnesty with zero border security and was somehow able to convince McCain that Republicans would win more Latino votes — eventually — by adopting that position than they’d lose from disaffected conservatives walking away, McCain would presumably be all for it. Whatever you think of Rubio, give him credit at least for having the basic common sense to insist that he supports the Gang of Eight bill on the merits, because it’s the “right thing to do,” not out of some transparent, half-assed electoral calculus that encourages border hawks to chow down on whatever crap liberals are serving up on a plate. Good lord.

To cleanse your palate of McCain’s pandering, watch GOP House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte hint strongly that he’s going to slow the bill down in the House. The good stuff starts at 2:30. Needless to say, although he wields influence as Judiciary chair, Goodlatte’s not the final arbiter on how quickly this moves through the House. There are heavy hitters, starting with Paul Ryan, who’d prefer to see amnesty taken care of sooner rather than later. Which side Boehner ends up on probably depends on how much of an outcry there is among grassroots conservatives. But if you dislike the Gang of Eight bill — which you should, if you’re serious about border security — this guy may well be your best hope to avoid a congressional rubber-stamp by panicky, pander-minded Republicans. One step at a time:

House Republicans will take on the immigration issue in bite-size pieces, shunning pressure to act quickly and rejecting the comprehensive approach embraced in the Senate, a key committee chairman said Thursday.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., declined to commit to finishing immigration legislation this year, as President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group in the Senate want to do. He said bills on an agriculture worker program and workplace enforcement would come first, and he said there’d been no decision on how to deal with legalization or a possible path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally, a centerpiece of a new bipartisan bill in the Senate…

He said that while he hopes to produce a bill this year, “I’m going to be very cautious about setting any kind of arbitrary limits on when this has to be done.”…

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Thursday that in the wake of three days of hearings on the Senate immigration bill, his committee will begin to amend and vote on the legislation May 9.

He’s not flatly rejecting the idea of a single comprehensive House bill — insisting on a bunch of piecemeal bills would kill immigration reform outright — but he does seem committed to hearings for each individual component, which will slow things down and give opposition time to gel (and to settle on a strategy). “By taking a fine-toothed comb through each of the individual issues within the larger immigration debate, it’ll help us get a better bill that will benefit Americans and provide a workable immigration system,” he said, which is essentially the opposite of what Senate Democrats want and what their easily-rolled allies in the Senate GOP are willing to accept.

Here’s Goodlatte’s problem, though: If this bill passes the Senate with a sizable number of Republican votes, something both Schumer and McCain claim is distinctly possible, how willing will he and Boehner be to go to the mat to delay a vote in the name of holding further hearings? Two more polls out today show support for reform, and it’s the House GOP more so than Senate Republicans that’s worried about losing ground in the midterms. Will Goodlatte continue to insist on the go-slow approach if the Senate passes something with 70 votes and every prominent establishment Republican in the country starts screeching at them to hurry up and pass something before the Democrats start to make hay of the delay in 2014? Hmmmm.

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