Wednesday, April 10, 2013

¿Reforma Ahora?

This week has been shaping up to be a critical one in Congress. Several important hot-button issues finally seem to be getting bills and getting action. And soon, we may be getting a big announcement on another major bill.

Apparently within a week, the long awaited "Gang of 8" comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill will finally be unveiled completely. Apparently, it will include a 10 year border security plan that must be completed before the estimated 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants currently in America will be allowed to apply for permanent legal residency (and ultimately citizenship). So does this mean a deal?

For many, yes. However, the "tea party" lockstep opposition to CIR continues. They're even trying to fudge numbers to make it seem like CIR is "too expensive". They're pulling out all stops (literally!) to try to stop CIR.

And funny enough, "Gang of 8" Senate Republicans are now rising up to try to knock down the new "tea party" obstruction campaign for CIR.

A group of Republican senators has called on the Judiciary Committee to take its time in reviewing the bill, with some members going so far as to suggest scheduling several months of hearings. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has expressed some sympathy for their concerns and has called for multiple hearings on his legislation once it’s released — much to the chagrin of immigration activists.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Tuesday he was “optimistic” an immigration deal would be reached soon. And he didn’t sound very interested in the prospect of a drawn out set of hearings to review it before moving on to the amendment process and utimately a vote.

“We did [one hearing] in 2006,” Graham said, referring to past efforts at passing a bill. “It was good enough for us in 2006.”

McCain also sounded skeptical of additional hearings in an appearance on CBS’ Face The Nation over the weekend.

“Some are saying, wow, we’re not having enough hearings,” McCain said. “First of all, we know the issue. But second of all, the Judiciary Committee will act. There will be amendments. There will be debate. Then it will go to the floor of the Senate. There will be plenty of time for discussion and debate so I reject this notion that something is being railroaded through.”

What's complicated this has been another "Gang of 8" Republican, Marco Rubio (R-Florida), expressing sympathy for "tea party" efforts to slow down his own bill (with the clear intent to kill it!). Clearly, Rubio has other things in mind. (Hint: 2016.)

Yet despite Rubio's willingness to drink some "TEA", McCain & Graham don't want any (more) of it. They just want their bill to move. And they want to exorcise the political ghosts of Mitt Romney, Sharron Angle, Kris Kobach, and Joe Arpaio from the Republican Party.

So who's with them? That will be the key to CIR's success going forward. As we've discussed before, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) likely has at least 50 Senate Democrats on board for CIR. There seems to be more than enough Senate Republicans open to CIR to create a plausible path to a filibuster-proof 60 vote supermajority. Senator Dean Heller (R) has been one of those winnable Republicans. Will he remain open, even in the face of mounting "tea party" opposition?

Going forward, the challenges for CIR quite clearly lie within the Republican Party. Will there be enough Republicans in Congress willing to do the right thing policy wise? Will there be enough willing to do what may be politically necessary for the long term? And will there be enough willing to do so even if they must pay an immediate political price in Republican primaries next year and/or in 2016?

Stay tuned. This show is about to get even more interesting.

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