The Grand Old Party has changed. No really. That was the earnest message from Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who took his claim to the annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference, which ended Sunday in Chicago.
Republicans have “reshaped” their outreach, Mr. Priebus told the group, which represents some 6,000 officials. Republicans get community; they get neighborhoods and churches. They get immigration and educational reform plus economic opportunity. “In America, it doesn’t matter where you come from; it matters where you’re going,” Mr. Priebus noted…
“I know that this is a bipartisan audience. And I didn’t come here to convert you. But I hope that it’s clear that we do want to earn your trust and your vote, and that we can find common ground,” he added.
Boehner has already ruled out the simplest course of action, which would produce the best outcome for the nation and also boost the prospects of the Republican Party: Bring the Senate bill up for a vote.
Under the most likely scenario, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has the whole cat-herding thing down pat, would deliver virtually the entire Democratic caucus in support. Most Republicans would vote no, but there should be enough defections to push the measure over the 218-vote threshold and send it to President Obama for his signature.
Obama would be able to trumpet a centerpiece accomplishment for his second term. But the GOP would reap far greater political gain by sending a message to Latinos — the nation’s largest minority group — that’s different from the customary “Go away.”
The Latino share of the electorate was 8.4% in 2012. What’s worrisome to the GOP is that the Latino share of the population in 2012 was 17.2% and growing. The reason for the disparity has much less to do with illegal immigration than it does with the relative youth of the Latino community, where the median age is 27 versus 42 for whites. According to Pew, there are about 7.1 million undocumented Latino adults who could become citizens under the Senate bill–and only some of them would do so, let alone vote. That group is dwarfed by the 17.6 million Latinos under-18, the overwhelming majority of whom (93%) are US-born citizens. Every election cycle, more of them will become eligible to vote, while the oldest, whitest and most Republican generation age out of the electorate on the other end. (“Age out of the electorate” is a euphemism for “die.”)
It actually gets worse for the GOP. Hispanic turnout is extremely low–48% in 2012–in part because their eligible voters are so young. By comparison, white turnout was 64% and black turnout was 66%. That gives Democrats room to grow their Latino base through registration and voting drives–an area where they’ve been incredibly successful with black voters already–while Republicans may be operating near their ceiling with whites.
The white vote also looks so GOP-friendly because the Deep South backs Republicans by huge margins: Obama won 51% of the white vote in Iowa, for example, but just 10% in Mississippi. And according to Trende’s analysis, a lot of the “missing” white vote is concentrated in rural portions of the Northeast. So even if Republicans boost white turnout, a bunch of the gains will go to running up the score in Southern states they already win or to improving their margin in Northern states they don’t contest.
No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform—and leave in place a system that does all of those things…
The necessary overhaul of the immigration system cannot be achieved piecemeal. The most important changes—reducing family preferences, creating a robust guest-worker program, and increasing border security—cannot be enacted with Republican votes alone. That means compromise and a comprehensive approach—or the perpetuation of the status quo that has all of the detriments of amnesty without any of the economic benefits of reform.
Such reform is commended by both sound policy and principle. And it will also earn goodwill among citizens of Hispanic and Asian descent. In the 2012 presidential election, Republicans received only 27% of Hispanic votes—down from 40% only 12 years earlier. Fifty thousand Hispanics turn 18 and become eligible to vote every month. Republicans did even worse among Asians—now the largest group of immigrants every year—receiving only 26% of their votes.
Immigration is not the only issue on which Hispanics or Asians vote. But it is a gateway issue.
Normally, politics is a zero sum game. One party can only win an election if the other party loses. But on immigration, Democrats want Republicans to know that they are only pushing amnesty because they have the GOP’s best interests at heart.
“We wouldn’t even be where we are right now had it not been that 70% of Hispanics voted for President Obama, voted Democratic in the last election. That caused an epiphany in the Senate, that’s for sure,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Meet the Press. “And it’s certainly right– for the Republicans if they ever want to win a presidential race. The senators know it’s important to win statewide– to have Hispanics and other immigrant populations– supporting them. Hopefully, they can persuade their colleagues in the House.”…
On CNN’s State of the Union, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., signaled exactly where his committee was going on the issue. “When you use the word ‘pathway to legalization,’ I would say yes … not a special pathway to citizenship,” he said.
That would leave Democrats with a stark choice: Do they take the opportunity to legalize the millions of immigrants who are living here illegally now, or do they let immigration reform die and take the issue to the American people in 2014.
If the House Democrats replicate the Senate Dems remarkably disciplined (unanimous) support shown in the upper house, there is probably a “Dems +17″ majority in the House for some form of legalization bill, if it’s allowed to come to the floor. And the Speaker, the guy who gets to decide whether it comes to the floor, is widely believed to secretly favor it…
Conservative opponents of the Gang face an obvious trap, outlined by Bill Kristol: Speaker Boehner lets them introduce and pass their own strong, enforcement-only anti-illegal immigration bills. Build the fence! Mandate E-Verify! End Sanctuary Cities! But these oh-so-tough little bills then go to a stacked conference committee with the Senate and come back as ‘legalistion-first’ bills. Then Boehner just has to somehow engineer one floor vote to produce an amnesty. The operative cliche in the Senate was “fig leaf;” in the House it’s “Trojan Horse.” Except, of course, that many of the conservative sponsors of the “tough” House bills might be in on the trick–’Just let us posture with our little bills before you beat us!’…
Is there some unexpressed, semi-subconscious force that might motivate Boehner to break his deal? Yes! Money. In terms of campaign contributions, legalization backers seem to have outspent opponents by a margin of 24 to 1. Of course, this led the press to launch one of its familiar campaigns against the influence of money in politics … oh wait, that didn’t happen at all. Instead, WaPo‘s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan wrote movingly of “[o]ne voice lost in this battle over what the right, next move is on immigration for the party.” The lost voice ? ”The major donors of the party who serve as the bundlers of presidential campaigns and the funders of super PACs.”
Finally, there is always the power of pork. When Lyndon Johnson, as Senate majority leader, had to craft a deal over the Civil Rights Act of 1957, one of the tools he used to win over Western senators to vote in ways that were helpful to him was to convince Southerners to support a major water project in Arizona. Today, the tools of pork are not as voluminous. A stringent budget and limits on earmarks have taken away some of the tools that the leadership depends on. Yet there is still pork to go around.
While tea party Republicans allegedly don’t like this, nothing could be further from the truth. In 2011, an investigation by Newsweek found how, despite their rhetoric, tea party Republicans have made the same kind of demands for money in their districts as others. Virginia’s Eric Cantor, House majority leader, for instance, pressed for transportation funding in his home state even while deriding Congress for its spending habits.
All these tools offer Boehner some path and muscle to make the impossible possible. If the immigration bill goes down to defeat in the House it would be a huge blow to those desperately seeking a path to citizenship, to the national standing of the GOP and to Boehner. His power as a legislative leader would totally vanish, and other than tea party Republicans, there would be little support for him.
The Social Security Administration’s most recent estimate says the system will become insolvent in 2033. Under the Gang bill, according to Goss’ estimate, even with all those new immigrants paying taxes, the system will become insolvent in 2035. Not much difference there. And after that, when the immigrants hit retirement age and begin collecting benefits, they will increase Social Security’s deficit.
Of course, the immigrants will have children, who will also pay into the system. Put it all together, according to Goss, and immigration reform will add about $2 trillion in tax revenues in the next 75 years, while costing about $1.5 trillion in benefits. That’s a net plus, but not much of a boon, since it is stretched out over more than seven decades — and certainly not when one considers the tendency of federal programs to grow in cost.
So even with reform, the nation’s entitlement programs are on as shaky ground as before. “This means immigration reform doesn’t make entitlement reform any less necessary — it just puts off the depletion date by two years,” says conservative analyst Yuval Levin. “And it’s important to understand that this two-year difference basically amounts to nothing, since projections of the depletion date change by that much every couple of years now.”
In the end, House Speaker John Boehner will be forced to allow the bill to pass “with a majority of Democratic votes and some Chamber of Commerce-type Republicans.” Political pressure and the weight of public opinion, including mass protests, will force Boehner’s hand, Schumer argued.
“I could see a million people on the (National) Mall (in Washington) in August asking for the bill. And who’s going to be on stage? Not the usual suspects but the bishops, evangelicals and business leaders,” the New York Democrat said.