Basic good midterm politics. I think?
House GOP leaders plan to bring a Democratic measure calling for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the House floor, hoping to force Democrats into a difficult vote…
“Democrats have been trying to make July 4th about abolishing ICE, which is a radical, extreme position that would lead to open borders and undermine America’s national security,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told The Hill.
“I think it’s the wrong approach. I think everyone ought to be on record about where they stand on that issue.”
The Democratic bill is the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act championed by Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. It calls for a 17-member commission (ugh) to identify essential functions of ICE and reassign them to other government agencies. Silver lining: At least that would pare down the federal work force a little bit, right? As it turns out, no. Pocan’s bill explicitly requires the commission to “[i]dentify appropriate means of ensuring that total Federal employment is not reduced with the abolition of ICE.” Even when the left is in the mood for government reform, the federal leviathan remains as bloated as ever.
The politics here are simple on their face. The idea of abolishing ICE polls moderately well with a Democratic Party that’s drifting left and on par with gingivitis among the rest of the population. From Morning Consult:
The Democratic numbers there are in line with what YouGov found a few weeks ago, with the party splitting 40/28 in favor of abolition at the time. Among the wider population, though, the split was just 21/44. Hence the GOP interest in forcing a floor vote on Pocan’s bill: The issue is tailor-made for pitting left-wing Democrats sympathetic to the anti-ICE position against centrist Dems who worry that strong left-wing support for abolishing the agency will convince swing voters that Democrats oppose immigration enforcement, period.
Which of course they do, for non-violent illegals at least. So put ’em on record and leave Pelosi holding the bag, forced to explain why 100+ Dems or whatever voted to abolish America’s chief border enforcement agency. Centrists will be annoyed at the show of support by lefties for such a radical idea, lefties will be annoyed that there isn’t more support at the top of the party for nuking ICE. A good time will be had by all. There’s just one wrinkle: Don’t forget that, in the House, the GOP is defending more vulnerable seats this fall than Democrats are. As of March, there were 25 Republican-held seats in districts won by Hillary Clinton and 12 Democratic-held seats in districts won by Trump. All told, according to the Times, 42 Republican-held seats were less than “solidly” favored to stay that way this fall versus just 17 Democratic-held ones that fit the same description, plus another 22 that were pure toss-ups. Centrist Republicans are sufficiently worried about a backlash to Trump’s immigration policies in their home districts that they just spent months trying to pass a symbolic DREAM amnesty, only to have the effort ultimately crash and burn.
Which is to say, although “abolish ICE” is terrible *national* politics, is it terrible politics in the 80 or so swing House districts that’ll decide control of the chamber this fall? Not as clear. I doubt you’ll see even a single centrist Republican vote to abolish ICE but they may not be thrilled with the idea of casting another pro-enforcement vote after their dream of DREAM went down the tubes.
That raises a question, though. Why doesn’t Cocaine Mitch force the same vote in the Senate? Throw together an “abolish ICE” bill, put it on the floor, and let’s see how the Democratic heroes of 2020 shake out. Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren are all-in; interestingly, leftist favorite Kamala Harris is a bit more cautious. And of course vulnerable red-state Democrats like Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly who are up this fall will vote en masse against abolition, which can only annoy some of their base back home. Forcing politicians to vote on this who are facing a statewide or potentially national electorate makes even more sense than forcing House members to do so. McConnell should do it! In the meantime, though, here’s Paul Ryan twisting the knife.