HEATH SHULER IS PART OF THE GOP PLAN TO DEFEAT DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS OF CONGRESS-- NICE GOIN', EMANUEL
Right after Emanuel demanded Democratic congressional candidates "move to the right on immigration," one of his lackeys, North Carolina freshman Heath Shuler, introduced some Tancredo-esque enforcement-only legislation that has caused a serious split inside the House Democratic caucus. Republicans love it and this morning's CongressDaily reports they are petitioning to get Shuler's bill onto the floor for a vote. If enough treacherous Blue Dogs join with the Republicans and their petition tactic works (they need 170 signatures and their presidential candidate's blessing) "it would set up a platform for political attacks in the November elections, highlighting the GOP view that Congress should get tough on the border before addressing guest-worker visas or illegal immigrants."
The lobbyists who control the McCain campaign "have signed off on the strategy," but Blunt
is afraid to move forward 'til he hears where the flip-flipping McCain is on the issue now. "As the sponsor of a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to earn legal status, McCain has differed with a large portion of his party on immigration issues. Some Republicans fear McCain's support for earned legalization could undermine Republican turnout in November.
Democrats also are homing in on McCain's relatively liberal stance on immigration compared to base Republican voters. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Wednesday issued a statement calling on McCain to denounce a series of Republican-sponsored immigration enforcement bills that were introduced Tuesday.
"I am calling on Sen. McCain, as his party's presumptive nominee, to reject this draconian approach to immigration reform, which would demonize the Latino community," Menendez said. "As a past sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform who has since said he would have voted against his own bill, it is important for Sen. McCain to define his position on this cynical Republican effort."
Although they are not expecting to win enough signatures to force a floor vote in the House, GOP aides and lawmakers acknowledged privately that the move is intended to put pressure on vulnerable Democrats.
Several Democratic co-sponsors of Shuler's bill, such as Reps. Jason Altmire and Chris Carney of Pennsylvania and Nick Lampson of Texas, are on GOP target lists for the fall elections.
"We can definitely turn the screws to them in a certain way," said one GOP aide.
"Whatever Democrats sign onto it, will add the pressure on others," said one GOP leadership source. But sources say only seven Democrats who co-sponsor Shuler's bill have committed to sign a discharge petition.
Democratic leaders were whipping their members on the floor Tuesday night about whether they would sign onto the discharge petition on Shuler's bill. House leaders made it clear at that time that Speaker Pelosi did not want rank-and-file lawmakers to enable the Republican effort.
On Friday, Pelosi's office met with senior staff from the relevant committees and top leadership aides to discuss Shuler's bill. A spokesman for Shuler said that he is not involved in the effort, but he would sign the discharge petition if it is brought up.
My day began on a conference call with Speaker Pelosi. I congratulated her on her success yesterday with the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act but asked her if she ever talks to members like Jim Marshall about always voting with Republicans. She poo-poo-ed my concerns and quickly moved on to talk about something easier for her, FISA. The fact of the matter is, Shuler, who has the absolute worst, most reactionary voting record of any Democratic freshman-- by all measurements-- and is only exceeded by Dixiecrats Jim Marshall (GA), John Barrow (GA) and Gene Taylor (MS) in the number of times he has abandoned the Democrats to rubber stamp the Bush agenda-- is playing right into GOP hands. He could well wind up jeopardizing the re-election prospects of several vulnerable colleagues although, ironically, they are likely to be reactionaries and Blue Dogs like himself. If Pelosi doesn't want to talk to him herself, why doesn't she have Rahm Emanuel, his sponsor and puppetmaster, pull some strings? There is, after all, an alternative to the punitive and divisive Republican way of dealing with immigration reform. No one has explained it to Shuler or Tancredo (or Emanuel) but we've invited our friend Rep. Hilda Solis for a special Blue America chat next month to discuss the progressive way of dealing with this problem. I'll let you know the date. We'll ask Heath to come on too.