It had all the optics of a truly historic day. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the Senate vote that would reform the country’s broken immigration system and help provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people living here illegally. The gallery was full, including dozens of young Hispanic men and women wearing blue and orange shirts with slogans such as “11 Million Dreamers.”…
“We all gave. We all took. We all fought. We all smiled. And at the end of the day we held hands and walked out here together,” Schumer said. And at the end of the press conference, he walked arm-in-arm with McCain, very aware that a group of a half-dozen photographers were snapping their photos. For posterity. Or something…
“I just wish now I could go over to the House for a few months and work this out over there,” said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican member of the Gang, and recent defector from the House.
A senior White House official said the Senate’s 68-32 passage of a sweeping immigration bill on Thursday has created pressure for action in the GOP-led House.
“There is a national conversation happening about immigration reform. And there is a sense of momentum created by what the Senate just did. So we expect that conversation is going to continue,” said Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council…
“[Y]ou’re talking about the business community, from the National Association of Manufacturers, to the U.S. Chamber, to the tech sector, small businesses, faith leaders of every kind, but also this conversation is happening locally in a different way in religious congregations, in communities around the country,” she said. “The country is for this and I think ultimately the House of Representatives will be too.”
Supporters say they are on the offensive now.
“The House has not felt our love yet,” said Eliseo Medina, the international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, a leading labor group in the campaign for the overhaul. On Friday, more than 100 top organizers from unions, immigration groups and other organizations converged on Washington for a two-day session to strategize for the House debate.
Mr. Rodríguez, of the evangelical coalition, said Republicans who voted to block the overhaul could face future costs.
“We were at the edge of the Jordan River, but after the Senate, we officially got our feet wet,” he said. “If 11 million immigrants are left in the middle of the water and do not reach the promised land, neither will the Republican Party reach the promised land of the White House.”
Even though leadership usually would like far-right lawmakers to keep their mouths zipped when they talk about these issues, this time they plan to let the anti-immigration reform members run wild. They want to see exactly how many people agree with folks like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). From there, they’ll have a better sense of what kind of legislation is feasible…
“Lord only knows, two months ago there were two of us, maybe even only one of us,” King said of the anti-reform movement. “Today, you can count us by the dozens or the scores. We’ll see if that becomes a big enough number. I’m encouraged by the positions that I have seen taken by our leadership in that they want to see the majority of the majority support whatever we end up with. That’s a pretty good position to be in.”
Conservatives in the conference are going to talk a lot about trust. After the recent spate of scandals, why should anyone trust President Barack Obama to implement border security measures? And why should they trust Republican leadership not to trick them into passing what they consider amnesty?
“There’s got to be hard, fast rules, and not just guidelines, but targets that must be met,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican who tried and failed to depose Boehner earlier this year. “The idea of letting this administration define border security is like letting Bill Clinton define sexual relations.”
Until now the conversation about the bill’s congressional prospects has been a Lindsey Graham monologue with occasional Ted Cruz footnotes, as if the House didn’t have its own priorities and math.
This is the math.
Republicans currently control 234 of the House’s 435 voting districts. In 210 of these districts—eight short of the votes you need to elect a speaker—the Hispanic share of the vote is below 25 percent. Of the other 24 districts where Hispanic voters might be problematic for a Republican who attacks the immigration bill, 12 went for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama. So, if House Republicans held every one of their current seats that only have a tiny fraction of Hispanics, and the dozen with solid Hispanic votes but Republican tendencies, they’d have the majority with four votes to spare. “Nonwhite voters are a threat to Republican White House chances in 2016, but hardly a threat to the House Republican majority,” says David Wasserman, House race editor of the Cook Political Report…
Pro-reform scolds have known that for a while. “If people are only looking at their own little backyards, yes, there are a lot of Republicans who can afford to vote no with no immediate repercussions,” says Florida-based GOP strategist Ana Navarro. “Sure, if you’re in the middle of Iowa, you’ll be fine, but I’d like to think there are enough responsible adults in the Republican Party to pass a bill.”
The House GOP are watching their backs from potential primary opponents who would run to the right of them. If they supported a Senate immigration bill, it’s likely the challengers would emerge in droves to throw them out of office. At the same time, the House Republican leadership recognizes that if they don’t produce an immigration reform bill, the Democrats led by President Obama will continue to hammer them for being anti-Hispanic.
The key for House Republicans to protecting the already damaged GOP brand would be to produce a conservative immigration bill that will get 218 votes and make it into conference negotiations with the Senate. Lawmakers can tell their constituents that they voted for immigration reform that protected the rights of Americans while securing the border. It also somewhat dilutes the attacks from Democrats that Republicans are acting out of touch.
Both versions of immigration reform will be stuck in conference and as an election year quickly approaches, it’s going to be more difficult to reach a consensus. The blame game between both parties will ensue and voters will grimace once again about the gridlock in Washington.
KRISTOL: Sure, they could pass individual pieces of legislation or knit them together as they wish. That’s not going to be easy. This is a hard problem, and in some cases maybe deciding just to do nothing for now and revisit it in a year or two, but I hope they can pass pieces of legislation. I think the key then is to say, “Look, the Senate should take up this legislation.” The Senate could amend it, the Senate could send it back to us. That’s traditionally the way legislation often gets worked out. But we are not going to let you use as an excuse for going to conference some piece of border security legislation or guest worker legislation or high-tech visa legislation that we pass. Because once they go to conference, the Senate can dominate the conference, the few renegade House Republicans can team with House Democrats to end up with a conference report. Then the speaker’s in the position of is he not going to bring up a conference report? And once it gets to the floor, it can be passed with overwhelmingly Democratic votes in the House. So, it’s a little technical, I guess, as a legislative process matter, but I think it’s very important that House Republicans, on the one hand, put forward their own ideas, absolutely, but on the other hand, take the position: no capitulation to the Senate bill. I’d say no comprehensive legislation in the way comprehensive is being used — 1,200 page bill full of pork and exceptions and waivers and all that. So no capitulation, no comprehensive legislation and no conference with the Senate bill.
House Republicans are unmoved by the sense of urgency projected by immigration reform advocates. “The bottom line is it’s been since 1986 that there was legislation related to immigration reform. I don’t know what a couple more months is going to hurt,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee…
Immigration-reform advocates are preparing to blame the House Republicans for blocking the Senate’s legislation if they fail to pass an immigration bill that would allow a House-Senate conference committee. If the House doesn’t pass legislation, activists will likely turn their attention to the administration next year, asking for more deferrals of deportation along the lines of last year’s deferred action program for “Dreamers,” unauthorized youth who were brought to the country as kids.
“The irony is that if House Republicans block immigration reform, in hopes of thwarting Obama and getting a bill more to their liking in the future, they will give Obama a chance to go down in history as the great emancipator of Latino immigrants,” said America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry. “A future Democratic Congress and president will be able to pass reform with a path to citizenship without giving nearly as much as they’re prepared to give this year.”
But even in the face of this win-win, we are all dependent on House Republicans taking a page from Lindsey Graham’s profile in courage playbook going forward. There is plenty of upside economically for the nation and politically for the GOP, at least in terms of not permanently alienating the fastest growing demographic group in the nation.
But as with JFK’s original definition of profiles in courage, elected representatives must do what they know is right for the long-term fate of the nation in the face of potential short-term political risk from their constituents. That is the spirit Graham exemplified in the Senate on this bill. Now conservative colleagues in the House also will need to rise to the occasion. They can gird their courage with a practical realization: they will earn their rock-bottom approval ratings permanently if they cannot find a way to reason together to pass major legislation.
The 2012 exit polls show the country unhappy with the state of the union, disappointed with Barack Obama’s governance, disapproving of Obamacare, and generally inclined to think government should do less, not more. Yet Mitt Romney still lost—in no small part because voters believed that Obama, not Romney, cared about average people.
If Republicans are to win again, this is the image they must combat. Too many voters still see the GOP as a bunch of rich, aloof plutocrats. The most obvious way to address this problem is for Republicans to focus relentlessly on the middle-class squeeze that has afflicted the country for over a decade. Incomes have stagnated, while the costs of energy, health care, education, and other essentials have only grown. The result is that wages and salaries, adjusted for inflation and population, are lower today than any point since 1998…
The point is that the Gang of Eight bill hurts the Republican party in ways that are central to its long-term viability. The GOP is not going to thrive if it is perceived as conspiring to reduce wages, increase unemployment, give newly legalized immigrants a hiring advantage over citizens, or grant special favors to politically connected interests. If Republicans want to return to the political majority, they need to stand, forcefully and unequivocally, for the middle class and against special interests—and that means vigorously exposing the flaws in the Gang of Eight bill.
Via the Daily Caller.