But the likely presidential candidate apparently stood on another side of that debate as the Milwaukee County Executive in 2006. That year, he signed a resolution calling on Congress to pass the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, a bill authored by John McCain and Teddy Kennedy that was denounced at the time by conservatives as “amnesty” — and remains anathema to party activists…
The 2006 resolution embracing the McCain-Kennedy bill was sent to Walker by the Milwaukee Board of Supervisors. He signed it despite returning or vetoing numerous other matters that year. The final version of the resolution signaled support for criminalizing federal immigration law violations and increased border fencing. But it also referred to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and “full labor rights.”
Good news for Walker: The guy who actually wrote that bill — with Ted Kennedy — ended up winning the GOP nomination in 2008, so it’s possible to be a much bigger amnesty shill and still end up as the “conservative” party’s choice for president. More good news: Although McCain faced a weaker field than Walker will, he also had to contend with people running to his right on this issue. Walker really doesn’t. Cruz will try, but when push comes to shove, he supports legalizing illegals. And still more good news: Judging from the reaction of some of our commenters in Headlines, plenty of grassroots righties are already greeting stories like this with “the media’s trying to take down our guy!” rather than “gee, the great conservative hope sure has a bad record on this issue.” That’s Walker’s strength in a nutshell. He’s impressed so many Republicans by winning his death match with labor in Wisconsin that his heresies on immigration are interpreted not so much as damaging liabilities as fodder for “they’ll tell you who they fear” hit pieces by a panicky drive-by media. He’s One of Us, so he’ll get a pass on offenses that constitute high crimes when committed by Jeb Bush or even Marco Rubio. (One commenter touted Walker’s immigration squishiness as a good thing insofar as it’ll help pull votes from the center of the party too. Walker/McCain 2016!) In that sense Walker really is Reaganesque. Sure, the Gipper may have signed off on a truly terrible amnesty bill, but if that’s all you see in his record, you’re missing the forest for the trees.
Even so, Team Walker’s taking no chances. Politico reports that they’re working on an immigration platform that’ll call for repealing Obama’s executive amnesty and demanding “absolute security” at the border before tackling legalization. You can imagine how that startling transformation from squish to border hawk will be packaged: “Yes, like everyone else running for president this year, Governor Walker has long supported bringing illegals ‘out of the shadows,’ but last year’s border crisis drove home to him just how weak our enforcement mechanisms are. He’s seen the light and now realizes that security must precede legalization to ensure that there are no further amnesties.” That’ll be plenty good enough for voters who like him and are looking for a reason to absolve him of his previous ideological sins.
Is it also good enough for Rubio, though? He’s been doing penance for his own sins for more than a year now, much longer than Walker, to the point where he’s all but abandoned the Gang of Eight bill and endorsed a security-first piecemeal approach to immigration reform as the way forward. And yet many conservatives still regard him as hopelessly compromised on this issue, never to be trusted again. That’s what made yesterday’s news about him supposedly calling for a “clean” DHS funding bill, which would mean giving up on trying to block Obama’s amnesty, so shocking: The last guy in the 2016 field who can afford to cross the base again on immigration is Rubio. Turns out he didn’t call for a “clean” bill, though; after reading the transcript of what he said, I’m … not sure what his strategy is for undoing Obama’s amnesty, frankly. What he’s saying, I think, is that the GOP should give up for now on repealing the 2012 DACA amnesty for DREAMers and focus exclusively on getting rid of last November’s mega-amnesty for adult illegals. (Ted Cruz supports the same move.) In theory it’ll be easier for Senate Dems to vote for a bill that targets only the latter amnesty — DACA has already been implemented, the people enrolled in it are kids, and it’s more modest in scope than Obama’s more recent immigration action. You might pick up a few Democratic votes for cloture on that one … but you probably won’t get to 60, as even purple-state Democrats will be reluctant to humiliate Obama by helping the GOP get an anti-amnesty bill through the Senate. So that’ll be filibustered too, in which case what’s Rubio’s move then? Do we a pass a clean DHS bill at that point? Do we pass a bill that funds all of DHS except the immigration agencies? Exit quotation from Rubio: “We have to fund Homeland Security.”