Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Will Immigration Reform Go The Same Way As Gun Safety Reform?


Have you noticed that Congress isn't going along with some of the broad preferences of the American people lately. Something between 86 and 91% of Americans-- depending on which poll you prefer-- support background checks on arms purchases in order to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, wife beaters and the mentally ill. Perhaps because most Republican legislators are terrorists, criminals, wife beaters and/or the mentally ill, they were able to filibuster the law to death. The House was able to duck voting on it altogether but 46 NRA shills were able to use a procedural tactic to thwart the majority in the Senate and thwart the will of the American people-- for now. The very right-wing co-sponsor of the amendment, Pat Toomey (R-PA) made a startling admission one week ago during an interview at the Times Herald in Norristown, PA: "In the end it didn’t pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it." [When's the last time you heard a TV anchor use the word "obstructionist?"]

A similar scenario could be playing out again in the battle over comprehensive immigration reform. First off, in another bipartisan poll, this one published yesterday-- while the GOP refuses to discuss anything, just shout nonsense about "Benghazi"-- an overwhelming majority of Americans, right across the partisan spectrum, voiced support for the Senate's Gang of 8 proposal, which includes a pathway to citizenship, increased border security, and employer verification requirements. 78% of liberal Democrats and 74% of conservative Republican respondents back the plan, as do 68% of "swing voters."

Pollster Jeff Pollock points out, perhaps ominously for some, that "supporting the proposal is a net positive for Congressional candidates. "Four in ten voters (42%) are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports comprehensive immigration reform, while just 12% say they are less likely to support a candidate who supports it. Among swing voters, a candidate’s support for the measure produces a similarly positive effect."

And yet right-wing extremists in Congress, primarily neo-Know Nothings from the ultra-gerrymandered ex-Confederate states, are determined to block comprehensive immigration reform, whatever it takes. Reactionaries in the Senate-- led by KKK Senator Jeff Sessions (AL) and Ted Cruz (TX) will attempt to load the bill up with poison pill amendments. But the real hope for killing the bill rests in the House, where sociopaths and fringy crackpots Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Steve King (R-IA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), domestic terrorist Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) are working full time spreading their poison. King: “The meetings of the Gang of Eight and the secret meetings in the House of Representatives-- the people who have been standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law haven’t been invited to those meetings." Paranoid and off-balance, former drug addict Dana Rohrabacher added, "We’ve got all the rich guys and the elitists talking to each other. Unfortunately us regular folks don’t have that kind of coordination."

Republicans are caught between a rock and a hard place on this. Their racist, xenophobic Tea Party base hates immigrants and people of color and fears the sound of a foreign language-- conservatives fear that when they hear a foreign language, the speaker is talking about them or plotting against them-- but the Big Business interests that finance the careers of Republican politicians, insist on immigration reform and access to cheap labor.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) got badly burned in the fight over background checks. He doesn't want to see that happen to himself again and he was one of the first Republican electeds to call out the crazy Heritage Foundation report yesterday. Even the Cato Institute is laughing in DeMint's face over this.

What’s remarkable about this whole spectacle is that no one is even bothering to pretend that the Heritage study isn’t simply a last ditch effort to kill the bill. That’s widely, publicly, explicitly acknowledged to be the case. Indeed, a Heritage study back during the last immigration reform battle is widely credited with giving the right the ammo they needed to scuttle that proposal, and opponents are openly discussing today’s study as providing the chance of a rerun of that glorious moment.

In this case, though, the response from Republicans to the study has been swift and aggressive. Reporters were sent a whole list of Republican Congressional aides and conservative think tank types who are prepared to push back on the study-- a measure of just how much the GOP establishment wants reform to pass this time.

Ultimately, the prospects for immigration reform have always turned on whether enough Republicans are willing to swallow hard, cross the citizenship Rubicon, and accept the consequences for the right. This report doesn’t change that basic dynamic. It will give an army of talk show hosts and bloggers opposed to reform plenty of ammunition to kick up a whole lot of noise against the proposal, to be sure.

...If far right Republicans in the House kill reform, that would be the worst possible political outcome for the GOP. The noise from the far right may have just gotten a bit louder, but the consequences for Republicans of allowing the noise to kill reform haven’t changed at all.

Meanwhile, President Obama has stayed in the background-- more or less-- so as to not give Republican racists and hate-mongers another gratuitous excuse-- "Obama wants it"-- to vote no. The only Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2014 whop are considered vulnerable are Susan Collins (ME) and the two closet cases, Lindsey Graham (SC) and Miss McConnell (KY). Collins is likely to support comprehensive reform, McConnell will count on a strong Know Nothing base in his state to have his anti-immigrant back, and Graham... well, he'll just twist in the wind, wanting to be on the right side of history but fearful that haters and Know Nothings who dominate his state's GOP will defeat him. In the House, most Republicans will count on gerrymandered districts to keep them safe if they vote NO. The two dozen House Republicans who could most easily be defeated if they vote against immigration reform are:
Mike Rogers (MI)
Charlie Dent (PA)
Pat Meehan (PA)
Mike Turner (OH)
John Kline (MN)
Buck McKeon (CA)
Richard Hanna (NY)
Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (NY)
Erik Paulsen (MN)
Paul Ryan (WI)
Frank Wolf (VA)
Tom Reed (NY)
Fred Upton (MI)
Scott Rigell (VA)
Michael Fitzpatrick (PA)
Rodney Davis (IL)
Joe Heck (NV)
Jeff Denham (CA)
Tom Latham (IA)
Mike Coffman (CO)
Chris Gibson (NY)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
David Valadao (CA)
Gary Miller (CA)
Even though Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is in a Florida district that Obama won by 7 points, I didn't mention her because Debbie Wasserman Schultz has persuaded Steve Israel to help protect her vulnerable seat and to prevent a viable Democratic candidate from challenging her.

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