Immigration reform theater
With the Senate gone to recess, a confusing string of announcements and legislative maneuvers is pouring out of the House, as an immigration reform bill is debated. Few other issues so clearly spotlight the absurd theater Congress becomes when the political class is dragged into doing something it really doesn’t want to do, or wants to do something the public strongly opposes.
That’s one of the conflicts few people in Washington are willing to discuss plainly, for obvious reasons. The American people don’t want amnesty for illegal aliens, or huge invasions pouring across their southern border, with the attendant costs and crime. They didn’t think of immigration as a very important issue at all, until Barack Obama deliberately provoked a crisis with his illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty orders. The humanitarian crisis that rolled to the border in response to Obama’s summons is front-page news everywhere, and since the new arrivals are being shipped all over the country at taxpayer expense (including Hawaii!) Presto – suddenly immigration is the top issue in polls, and everyone agrees Something Must Be Done, so the political steamroller is moving through Congress.
Anyone who still doubts this was a deliberate Cloward-Piven crisis to get left-wing immigration “reforms” passed is living in a fantasy world. Of course there would be a panicked rush of Republicans eager to give Democrats concessions in order to get something, anything passed. This was as predictable as a prophecy of the sun rising in the east. It doesn’t matter that the headlines looked bad for Obama during the past month, or that his poll numbers sank. That’s a very modest short-term price to pay in exchange for the long-term gains Democrats will enjoy; Big Picture political thinkers would even judge it worth losing a few seats in the 2014 elections. Getting the immigration issue to the top of the national to-do list, with children as its face, was the most obvious political sucker play in recent memory.
Far from being intimidated by his lousy poll numbers, Obama still sees this whole situation as win-win-win for him, no matter what happens. Here’s Chris Stirewalt at Fox News explaining how House Republicans were so easily marched back into session to work on a new bill Thursday night:
Why is the House working so hard today to pass a bill to address the border crisis that is dead on arrival in the Senate and would surely face a veto from President Obama if it were to pass? Partly because White House communications boss Dan Pfeiffer has an itchy Twitter finger. Moments after House leaders scuttled a scheduled vote on a compromise bill Thursday in answer to Obama’s request of nearly $4 billion to deal with a flood of young migrants across the southern border, Pfeiffer tweeted “… the House GOP once again proves why the President must act on his own to solve problems.”
Had Pfeiffer waited a bit to gloat, it might have been harder for Speaker John Boehner and his team to get members back from the exits to start working on a new compromise. The message made it clear to frustrated members just how the president planned to use their failure to advance a bill. “Exhibit A,” as one leadership aide described the tweet to Fox News First.
If Obama doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll just do what he wants anyway, citing the Republican refusal to give him what he wants as justification for ignoring the law and plowing ahead. This was, again, entirely predictable from Minute One of the current crisis. It’s not Obama trying to make the best of a bad political situation; it’s what he planned all along. Pfeiffer could have written that Tweet six months ago and saved it until now.
This brings the second illusion of Immigration Reform Theater into play: the GOP’s bizarre belief that it can win the love of Democrats, or at least a temporary moratorium on below-the-belt punches, by playing along. Here’s how that worked out, as House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s good friend, Democrat Luis Gutierrez, weighs in:
More Rep. Luis Gutierrez on GOP: “It is almost as if they despise all of our children”
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) August 1, 2014
Such touching bipartisanship! Never mind that most of the border tidal wave is not composed of little children – another distraction that has predictably become a key part of immigration reform theater, as the older minors and adult “refugees” are pushed behind the curtains. Amazingly, the GOP leadership seems to think it can get through this ordeal without being routinely described as child-hating inhuman monsters. Note to anyone who still doesn’t get it: that treatment will get worse with every capitulation you make, because the first round of capitulations concede the point of the knife getting slowly pushed between your shoulder blades.
Here’s a little more from that charming statesman, Rep. Gutierrez, courtesy of the Washington Times:
“I guess it is harder to take candy from children than they thought,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat. “The number of kids who have come to this country from Central America fleeing violence could all fit in Soldier Field with room to spare, yet about 60,000 kids have made adult American legislators lose their marbles. Republicans could not agree on how to deport them fast enough and the Democrats were not going to let a decade or more of progress in improving our asylum and human trafficking laws get thrown out for election-year politics.”
We’re past 60,000 unaccompanied minors already, and looking for closer to double that number in the near future, and of course that conveniently leaves out the far larger cohort of incoming aliens who are not children, and I don’t recall anyone suggesting we should resettle them to Soldier Field, but that’s all beside the point. The essential point is that nothing except deportations, plus an end to Obama’s amnesty giveaways, will stop this.
That all ended up being a separate bill in the current House legislative drama, splitting off a prohibition against any further DACA amnesty grants into a separate vote. The main immigration bill sounds better than the one conservatives revolted against yesterday, but even if both measures pass the House, nobody expects anything but a no-strings cash grab to get past the Senate, as Fox News notes:
The new measure’s price tag is said to be $694 million, up from $659 million — but still one-fifth of the $3.7 billion Obama requested, and a far cry from what the Senate considered.
At this stage, even if the House passes a bill, there is no clear path to getting any legislation through Congress anytime soon. A separate, $2.7 billion bill died on a procedural vote in the Senate on Thursday, and no more votes in that chamber are scheduled until early September.
But House leaders would prefer to leave for the recess having passed something, if only to save face and put the pressure back on the Senate to act.
The House bill revisions are part of a last-ditch effort by senior Republicans to ease concerns from the conservative flank of the party, which revolted a day earlier and prevented the bill from coming to the floor. Republicans need a strong majority of their own members on board, because Democrats largely are opposed to this bill.
Sources described the changes as relatively minor — “adding a few periods,” as one lawmaker put it — but nevertheless changing some minds.
The new bill includes $35 million in National Guard money for governors. It would also tighten language tweaking a 2008 immigration law, for the purpose of speeding deportations of illegal immigrant children back to Central American countries.
Further, it includes new and tougher language blocking Obama from taking certain executive actions on immigration. And a separate bill is being revised that would prevent Obama from expanding a program that suspended deportations for some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Basically, both sides are trying to pass their own thing, knowing it won’t survive, so they can say they did something, and castigate the other side for its obstructionism. The problem with this strategy of Mutual Assured Obstruction (to borrow a phrase from the Cold War) is that Democrats will savage Republicans with a passion they are unlikely to reciprocate. Republicans will mildly tut-tut Democrats for playing games while there’s a humanitarian crisis to be dealt with; Democrats will call Republicans evil S.O.B.s who enjoy watching children suffer; Obama will ignore whatever restrictions are placed on him, and Do What Must Be Done For the Children; in a few years, the Supreme Court might get around to saying he really didn’t have the power to do whatever he did, but it won’t matter by then.
And all the while, most Americans – including a good number of Democrat voters – will wonder what’s so tough about refraining from amnesty offers that we know for an empirical fact bring human waves across the border, enhancing our physical security using our amazing surveillance technology, and humanely returning people who never should have come here to their families in Central America. (Would that cost more, or less, than flying them to Hawaii?) The gap between American taxpayers, business interests, and the political class is wide enough to make everything look surreal from outside the Beltway, but it all makes sense from the inside, provided you ignore the rhetoric and remember what everyone’s actual motivations are. It’s also worth noting how Republicans keep glancing at the seat where Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia used to be. The American people are almost riled up enough to make Washington see things their way, at least in brief flashes.
Update: On Friday, the House passed a border crisis bill 223-189. It came in a little heavier than originally planned, as Fox News reports, but it’s still nowhere near the dump truck full of cash Obama wants:
The new measure’s price tag is now roughly $700 million, up from $659 million — but still one-fifth of the $3.7 billion Obama requested, and a far cry from what the Senate considered.
Sources described the changes as relatively minor — “adding a few periods,” as one lawmaker put it — but nevertheless changing some minds.
The new bill includes $70 million in National Guard money for both the states and federal government. It includes more than $400 million for the Department of Homeland Security to boost border security, and nearly $200 million for housing and “humanitarian assistance.”
It would also tighten language tweaking a 2008 immigration law, for the purpose of speeding deportations of illegal immigrant children back to Central American countries.It would bar housing the children on military bases if doing so displaces service members or interferes with military activities.
Further, a separate measure was approved later Friday by a 216-192 vote that would prevent Obama from expanding a program that suspended deportations for some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
That’s a big win for conservatives over the GOP leadership, and for the moment over the Democrats, whose desperate need to turn the debate into an ugly racial pander led them to say a number of things that will probably come back to haunt them in the upcoming elections. For example, the already erratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, went completely insane and started chasing Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) around the House floor after he dared to say something about the rule of law – a topic Democrats have become very uncomfortable with. ABC News captures the scene:
“You know something that I find quite interesting about the other side? Under the leadership of the former Speaker [Pelosi], and under the leadership of their former leader [Rep. Steny Hoyer], when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed,” he continued. “They didn’t have the strength to go after it back then. But now are trying to make a political issue out of it now.”
Off-mic, Pelosi then approached Marino, crossing the aisle in view of cameras, and apparently challenged Marino’s assertion that Democrats did not do anything about the issue when they had majority control.
“Yes it is true,” Marino replied directly to Pelosi, who was House speaker in those years. “I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don’t do.”
Marino then urged lawmakers to support the border supplemental “because apparently I hit the right nerve.”
After Marino concluded his remarks and as many Republicans applauded their colleague, Pelosi crossed the chamber again in view of cameras, enraged, pointing and sticking her finger at Marino.
She then followed Marino up a Republican aisle, gesturing and arguing with him. Lawmakers on the GOP side gathered in dismay as one spoke out to tell the chair that the House was not in order, in an effort to halt the bickering.
Pelosi finally relented after Republicans tried to get between Pelosi and Marino, and she returned to the Democratic side of the chamber. The House then promptly voted to approve the $694 million border supplemental, 223-189.
What Marino said is, of course, absolutely true, a matter of documented fact, but that’s another thing Democrats are really uncomfortable with these days. Democrat voters aren’t supposed to remember anything that happened last week, let alone what their political leaders said and did in 2009.
The curtain falls on the House drama with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) taunting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring his chamber back into session right now, instead of knocking off until September:
The meltdown of the phones this week got the attention of Congress. The border bill today is completely different than the bill yesterday. Now we have a real border security bill that addresses the current crisis and the root cause of the surge of illegal immigration due to people believing President Obama would provide them amnesty.
Today, by freezing DACA, the House voted to prevent the Obama administration’s actions to circumvent the law. The House also voted to provide support to law enforcement officials tasked with responding to the border crisis, including combating transnational gangs and cartels who are engaging in human and drug trafficking and profiting from our open border policies.
“When President Obama issued a dare to Congress that he could once again bypass the legislative process and unilaterally issue deferred action and work permits to 5 million illegal foreign nationals, the House had no option but to act.
The House answered the President and said ‘no you won’t,’ by standing up for the rule of law and prohibiting him from issuing millions of work permits and deferred action to those who entered our country illegally. This is the best action we could take to restrain a lawless President.
I urge Harry Reid and the Senate to return to Washington, D.C. and finish the work the House started to solve the border crisis.
I hate to be a little raincloud floating over the triumphal parade and dumping cold water on the festivities, but both House and Senate Republicans had better brace themselves for a wave of racist demagoguery from Democrats to rival the human tidal wave surging across the border. The odds of anything resembling the House bill getting past Harry Reid – the man who murdered dozens of pro-growth economy-boosting bills, then got his media chums to write stories about Republican obstructionism – are very slim, and of course Obama will never sign them. The Democrats are going to claim that the House bill was a futile exercise in political showmanship, and they know the media probably isn’t isn’t going to spend much time pointing out that Democrat intransigence is the reason. (I say “probably” because there have been a few grumbles in the mainstream press, here and there, and they might be wondering just how far they can afford to drift from what their audience is seeing with its own eyes.)
And if Obama just goes ahead and throws out some even bigger amnesty orders, what then? Democrats have been preparing the battlespace for an impeachment drama, while Republican leaders spend most of their time saying they have absolutely no intention of ever impeaching Obama under any circumstances… which hasn’t stopped Democrats from raising millions of dollars by peddling conspiracy theories to their gullible supporters. Kicking the impeachment stuff into high gear might be something Obama wants, not what he fears. Perhaps the more interesting question will be how far Democrats are willing to go, to counter the House’s power of the purse. How tight will those purse strings be pulled, if television screens are flooded with terrible images of the humanitarian crisis Republicans won’t give Obama $4 billion to address?
Short-term, Friday was good for conservatives, and good for the rule of law. Long-term, I’m still not convinced the GOP is geared up to win the Mutually Assured Obstruction game. It looks like we’re going to find out.
Update: Okay, let me try to be a constructive little raincloud: the way Republicans can win the long game is by following Rep. Merino’s lead. Pelosi’s fuses blew for a good reason – she knows her party cannot withstand arguments based on American interest, the rule of law, and an accurate history of the Democrat Congress, which rather pointedly illustrates just how seriously they took “immigration reform” until they saw an opportunity for political profit. Get the full story of the carnage Obama has created on the border with his reckless executive orders out there (it’s far worse than the American media is willing to admit.)
Don’t let yourself be bullied out of making the simple point that the American Congress and American Administration are supposed to be looking out for American interests first – something you’d never know from listening to the likes of Luis Gutierrez. Democrats are counting on using racial politics to influence the vote among legal Hispanic citizens in the next few elections. Don’t be afraid to ask those citizens if they relish getting in line for jobs and social services behind a huge incoming population of illegal aliens.
Point out that an anemic economy limping through years of high-unemployment semi-recovery is not well-positioned to absorb a large number of new job-seekers, nor is a government drowning in Obama’s debt financially able to take on a vast number of new dependents. And never stop making that devastating, irrefutable point that immigration policy is all about the rule of law, which weighs so heavily upon the heavily-taxed and hyper-regulated citizens of the United States, but seems to mean nothing to Democrats when discussing the southern border.
Those are the appeals Democrats want to intimidate Republicans out of using, precisely because they know how effective those appeals will be.