Tuesday, March 5, 2013

El Problema con el Té

As of late, media attention in Washington has been swirling around the latest manufactured crisis that's causing unnecessary economic headaches. However, there are still other topics being debated on Capitol Hill. One is comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

Until this week, it looked like there was a strong bipartisan consensus to finally act on CIR. But all of a sudden, there's a major crack in that consensus. And his name is Jeb Bush.

The reaction to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s seeming flip-flop-flip on immigration has left many observers with the same reaction: What is he thinking? [...]

Needless to say, people are confused. “Wow,” Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, told TPM. Like other reform advocates, he was surprised that Bush,a longtime ally across the aisle, would shift on this.

As recently as Jan. 24, Bush favored a pathway to citizenship. “A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants —a system that will include a path to citizenship —will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers,” he wrote in an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal.

“Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?” an unnamed Romney advisor told the Miami Herald. “He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that’s self-deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing.”

And the G-O-TEA base strikes again! Some think Jeb Bush flip-flopped in hopes of regaining lost viability in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary. Others think this is just a ploy to sell books. Whatever the case, Bush is going against his own family in pandering to the xenophobic "tea party".

So far, lead pro-CIR Republican Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) have been trying to spin away the implications of what just happened. However, another "Gang of 8" Republican is starting to worry.

That Rubio now must convince Bush to swing left on immigration represents an ironic role reversal for the two Florida politicians. Just a few months ago, it was Rubio who publicly opposed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and Bush who explicitly favored the idea.

“I thought about that issue a lot and [went] back and forth on it before I signed on to my principles and I just concluded that it’s not good for the country in the long term to have millions and millions of people who are forever prohibited from becoming citizens,” Rubio told reporters on his way to a Senate vote. “That hasn’t worked out well for Europe.”

Responding to a question from TPM, Rubio said he did not think Bush’s surprise move would make it harder to convince conservatives to accept an eventual path to citizenship.

“I don’t think so — we have what we have,” Rubio said.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another member of the bipartisan Senate group working on a bill, expressed serious concern Tuesday about Bush’s rightward turn —especially given his prominent reputation as an immigration reformer.

“He has been a great voice on immigration, he’s been a good governor who understands the Hispanic community,” Graham told reporters. “I just think this proposal caught me off guard and it undercuts what we’re trying to do. I mean I can assure you the Hispanic community has always assumed that for the tradeoffs I’m seeking there will be a pathway to citizenship.”

All along, I figured CIR's biggest obstacle would come from recalcitrant House Republicans. Rubio, McCain, & Graham were hoping that leading conservatives like Bush would step in to guide enough to the "Gang of 8" deal to insure its passage. Yet instead, House G-O-TEA acolytes must be reveling in Bush joining them for the "tea party".

So does this mean Alex Pareene's prediction of CIR's brutal death in the House is starting to come to fruition? We don't know just yet. But at this point, the forecast is looking cloudy.

So far, Senator Dean Heller (R), Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson), and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) have all signaled at least initial support for the "Gang of 8" plan. So we'll have to watch Nevada's own Republican Congresscritters to see what happens next to CIR on Capitol Hill. Will they stick with the likes of McCain & Rubio in hopes of rehabilitating the Nevada Republican Party's image among Latin@ voters while also finally achieving an unfulfilled promise to their big business supporters? Or will they cave to the teabaggers and flip-flop like Jeb Bush just did?

The fate of immigration reform may now lie in their hands.

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