Another day of interviews and calls, and my overwhelming sense is that the immigration bill as drafted is as dead as dead can be. The president’s speech on Tuesday had the effect of throwing gas on the flames, and the anger has multiplied, and it isn’t nativist in the least.
Could the bill be saved? Only if the Republican leadership comes back with a package of amendments which it announces beforehand and insists be voted on serially and all of which must be adopted if cloture is to be invoked on the final amended version. The choice before the Democrats is whether they will accept genuine enforcement (the whole fence first, big hikes in federal law enforcement beyond the Border Patrol, a burden of proof requirement on non-Spanish speaking immigrants from countries with jihadist networks and perhaps even for gang-age Spanish speakers etc.) What happened over the past ten days was a huge shift against the bill so that the amendment package must be real reform of the reform or the dead end will be reached. John McCain knew what he was doing when he demanded a jam down –the bill has lost support with every day of scrutiny.
Quick: Name one person who went from undecided or opposed to supporting since the bill was unveiled. Proponents have produced such a bad bill and marshalled such bad arguments that they have brought no one to their cause.
Expect more and more Democrats to try and keep the bill as it is because of the inferno on the right. Even lefties pushing for more family member migrations etc have got to see that unity in pushing the present version forward will splinter the GOP as surely as the Corn Laws did Peel’s Tories or as Ireland did Gladstone’s Liberals. If the GOP doesn’t get its amendment package out and adopted, the Republican Leader has got to call a halt to the meltdown. See this story for a clue on the deep damage done to the GOP over the past few days.
At this point I take out my Harriet Miers Fan Club charter membership card and put it on the table: This push for this bill is a disaster, Mr. President. Much much worse than the Miers nomination on which you had many good arguments, or the ports deal, on which you had fewer. On this issue there is no place to stand, and you are asking your friends in the Senate to go down fighting for a bad bill. It is a bad bill because no one believes the government can conduct millions of background checks (many spokesmen for the bill don’t even pretend to know where the paperwork will go!). No one believes the bill will halt the next 12 million. No one believes you are going to assure the fence gets built. No one believes that the employer verification system will get done or work when some half-assed version of it does get done. No one believes that the probationary visas don’t automatically convert illegal aliens with few if any rights into Due Process Clause covered legal migrants, with a Ninth Circuit ready and waiting to keep them here for decades.
No one believes passing the bill will help catch the jihadist sleepers already in the country. The constituency that has always been with you except on the ports deal –the security voter– has left the room. If you want them back, act quickly.
This isn’t a talk radio fueled shout from the far right. It isn’t the Minutemen or the Tancredo people. It is the GOP faithful who don’t want it, nor anything like it.
Huddle up, D.C. GOPers, and unveil a new and very different, very improved version. Couple it with the argument that Hillary is coming and this is the best we will get if we lose the White House. But the deal has to be one worth taking, not the same deal we’d get under a second President Clinton. That’s why the political rebelion is here: This looks like a bill that Hillary would have sold as tough on enforcement. We can wait two years for that.
It is just not believable. Fix it or kill it