McCain: When I come back, we’re going to try to get a new Gang of Eight immigration bill going
The joke’s on you, Maverick. We’ve got a border-hawk president now, one who’d never sign a comprehensive, er… Oh, right. Right.
The McCain Amnesty Act of 2017: That has a ring to it. He’s always wanted it to be his legacy and now he has a Republican in the White House who can probably convince grassroots righties to play ball. The stars are aligning.
“Immigration reform is one of the issues I’d like to see resolved,” McCain told The Arizona Republic in a Thursday interview. “I’ve got to talk to him (Schumer) about when would be the best time. I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do.”…
“Basically it’s what we passed last time, brought up to date with the new challenges, like opioids,” McCain said. “It’s still there. We got 68 votes, I think, the last time. I don’t think that’s going to be any different next time.”…
“I don’t know, but what I do know is that if we could pass it through the House and Senate the way we passed it through the Senate last time, it’s like this Russia (sanctions) bill, it doesn’t matter,” McCain said. “Do you think he signed it because he liked it?”
I like the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, a subject infamous for its ability to defy majority consensus in Congress, somehow passing with two-thirds in both houses to overcome a Trump veto. Imagine Paul Ryan trying to ram through an amnesty bill with the populist-in-chief vocally opposed. Even with the media behind him and McCain full force, there’s not a whisper of a chance that the House GOP would cross Trump that way and give the nationalist base aneurysms before a midterm that already looks dicey. Without a Trump buy-in, the idea is DOA. And even with a Trump buy-in, there’s a major risk that a chunk of his populist base would rebel, crippling his already tepid national support.
Purely for my own amusement, I’m trying to play devil’s advocate and imagine a scenario where Trump and the GOP might do it. I guess the argument is this: If the party can’t manage tax cuts by fall and winds up staring at the real possibility of no meaningful legislation whatsoever passing before the midterms, immigration would at least give them a shot at breaking their dry spell. Schumer might be willing to play ball, sensing that handing Trump a major “achievement” might be worth it in this case given (a) the havoc that a new immigration debate would wreak on the right and (b) the fact that Trump signing a legalization bill of any sort would be spun by the media as a near-total surrender by the White House on its core populist issue. But Schumer would need to make giant concessions to make this bill salable by Trump to GOP voters — full funding for the border wall, for starters, plus stronger internal enforcement mechanisms like e-Verify. He’d also have to give ground on the core border-hawk complaint about the original Gang of Eight bill, that it granted illegals probationary legalization before new security measures were verifiably in place. And even if he was willing to do all that, Trump almost certainly wouldn’t agree to amnesty for all illegals, just for DREAMers and maybe a few other special cases.
That’s the sort of deal Schumer might agree to if Trump was riding high in job approval and the GOP looked set to build even bigger majorities in Congress next fall. Under those circumstances, you take what you can get before the ruling party gets closer to the numbers it would need to pass a bill that’s more decisively in its favor. As it is, he can afford to slow-walk this: If the House is set to turn bluer next year (while hopefully remaining red on balance), which seems likely, he’ll bide his time and wait until 2019 to take up the issue. A weakened Trump and GOP might be ready to deal then on terms more favorable to the left. There’s no scenario in which either side does this now.
McCain also said in this same interview, by the way, that “to think that a wall is going to stop illegal immigration or drugs is crazy.” That’s how you know he’s not up for reelection this year.