Politico published a story today going into detail on how the various compromise immigration bills collapsed in the Senate yesterday. As we now know, none of the bills managed to get 60 votes and the bill most to President Trump’s liking (the Grassley bill) failed to get even 40 votes. But there was some last-minute drama on the Democratic side of the aisle as well involving Senator Kamala Harris.
Party leaders had been bullish that if they could get 11 Republicans on board, the entire 49-member Democratic Caucus would band together to put it over the top. Once it was clear the Republican votes wouldn’t materialize, though, party leaders braced for a mass defection of their liberal members.
In the end, only three Democrats voted “no,” including New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and California Sen. Kamala Harris…
Harris’ “no” vote caused the most apparent drama on the Democratic side.
As senators announced their vote on the bipartisan plan, the potential 2020 presidential candidate and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke tensely on the Senate floor. Harris then departed to the Democratic cloakroom. A few minutes later, she emerged and announced her “no” vote to audible gasps.
Some Democrats were furious.
“If Sen. Harris tries to use this no vote to get to the left of her colleagues in Iowa … she’ll be rightly and roundly pummeled for it. Some Democrats fought for Dreamers today, others fought for themselves,” said a Democratic staffer whose boss was fighting for the bill.
Since it was clear the bill was going down anyway, Harris won’t be blamed for failing to protect the Dreamers. Instead, she put out a statement emphasizing her opposition to funding Trump’s border wall. From the LA Times:
Harris said in a statement that the border wall funding, a campaign promise made by President Trump, is “a waste of taxpayer money.”
“A wall will not secure our border and I remain concerned those billions of dollars may also be used to implement this Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda — one that targets California and its residents,” she said. “I recognize that my colleagues faced the impossible challenge of crafting a bill that could meet the White House’s unreasonable and ever-shifting demands. But regrettably this bill is simply not the answer,” Harris said.
This was a well-calculated bit of strategy on Harris’ part. When speculation began about the possibility of her running for president, there was immediate pushback from the left.
From the Free Beacon:
Harris’ so-called “Bernieland” problem stems from alleged ties to Wall Street and insufficient commitment to populist economics, according to Mic.
Nomiki Konst, a Sanders supporter who serves on the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Commission, told potential Harris supporters that they should “follow the money.”
“The Democrats will not win until they address income inequality, no matter how they dress up their next candidate,” Konst said. “If that candidate is in bed with Wall Street, you may as well lay a tombstone out for the Democratic Party now. Voters are smart; they can follow the money.”
Harris knows has a problem on her left flank. In order to keep her bid for the White House alive, she needed to make some moves to please the left wing of her party. That’s what her DACA defection vote was about. She can now hit the 2020 trail claiming she’s one of the few Senators who rejected Trump’s wall. As the unnamed Democratic staffer quoted by Politico suggests, her move is so cynical that it might invite a backlash. But if nothing else, it’s a reminder that the divide within the Democratic party hasn’t gone away. Potential candidates are still thinking about ways to bridge that divide in 2020.