Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stuck Between a Rut & a Hard Base

Last week, immigrant rights activists protested in the US Capitol as the House was about to adjourn for August Recess without passing comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). And this week, we're seeing the beginning of an extended campaign to make Rep. Joe Heck (R-??!!) and other House Republicans pay attention to their constituents' demand for CIR. Congress may be in recess this month, but there's still plenty of work to do.

After all, Rep. Heck and the rest of the House G-O-TEA Caucus continue to take orders from the 21st Century Know Nothings on immigration policy (along with many more policy matters). That's why Republican "leaders" are trying so hard to hide their base. They don't want to admit they're killing CIR, yet they also don't want to stop killing CIR.

The strategy pre-supposed that a lot of Republicans would support comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform. And unless they were deluding themselves, they had to know that once the legislative efforts began in earnest, they were on the hook. Democrats would never let them off if they killed the project. They had to deliver.

But they might not deliver. The best we can hope for out of the House is a reform that weakens the key tradeoff in the Senate’s bill: eventual citizenship for current immigrants in exchange for the kinds of border security provisions Republicans would have a hard time ever passing on their own.

To the extent that House Republicans support eventual citizenship for current immigrants at all — and many do not — most want to keep the path blocked until after the border has been somehow deemed secure. The charitable interpretation of this kind of “trigger” — the kind endorsed by Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. — is that Republicans want to induce the executive branch to lock down the border as quickly as possible. The cynical interpretation is that Republicans want to lock in the border security gains, while back pocketing the option of reneging on citizenship later.

The party is at best frozen between inclusionary and exclusionary visions of its future, and isn’t sure which one to embrace.

This is the problem. Republicans are stuck between their "TEA" powered base and the powerful combination of sound policy & good politics. Right now, they seem to be paying only lip service to the latter while pandering endlessly to the former.

This is why Congress is stuck in such epic gridlock. And this is why CIR is in such a pickle despite easily passing the Senate in June. They're stuck between a rut and a hard base.

And we're all stuck in the middle with them as a result.

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