Six Ways the GOP Is Trying to Lose the Amnesty and Immigration Fight
GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has devised an immigration debate this week which can help an alliance of Democrats and roughly 15 business-first Republican Senators push an amnesty through the Senate while blocking President Donald Trump’s pro-American reforms.
“I think this is an effort that is set up to fail [Trump and] is not set up to help Americans,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations director at NumbersUSA. She continued:
This [Senate debate] is a very serious threat — screwing up the immigration debate will cost the Republicans the House and potentially even the Senate [in November], which means President Trump gets impeached.
Sen. McConnell’s debate decision is just one of several occasions where GOP team members have fumbled the political ball on amnesty even when Democrats push it into their hands. The repeated failures by the GOP establishment is reminiscent of the “failure theater” strategy which they used in 2015 to hide their planned loss of a 2015 amnesty showdown with President Barack Obama.
Here are six occasions where GOP passivity or failure have helped advance an amnesty.
A. President Donald Trump’s congressional liaison aide is not trying to persuade Senators to back the President’s plan. Instead, Marc Short is merely acting as a “mediator,” according to Politico:
In his first year as Trump’s top liaison to Congress, Republicans say Short has been more of a facilitator, rather than an arm-twister. That role will become particularly critical on immigration – an issue Congress has spectacularly failed to resolve in the past.
“I don’t see him as the real deal-maker so much as the kind of go-between, the mediator,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who’s interacted with Short on a host of issues including health care, the opioid crisis and energy policy. “He doesn’t try to reshape our thoughts. He sort of takes it in, and then, I’m assuming, reports back to the White House.”
B. House Speaker Paul Ryan is not trying to push the pro-American immigration bill drafted by judiciary chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, even though it offers the most benefits to Americans at the least cost — three-year work-permits (not citizenship or residency) to illegals — and it has been backed by a White House statement. Instead, Ryan just said February 8 that:
To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign.
That policy offers Democrats and the business community a strategy of pressuring Trump into more concessions — for example, approving a big amnesty in exchange for wall funding without needed legal reforms — so that Ryan can rush the pro-amnesty bill through the House.
C. GOP Senators have done nothing since the January shutdown to argue that Democrats favor illegals over Americans. In January, that tough argument — by McConnell, among others — helped them win the shutdown fight, according to the Washington Post:
With the shutdown heading into its third day, they were feeling the heat and finding it hard to control the messaging war. Voters in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were getting Republican robo-calls saying Democrats had “prioritized illegal immigrants over American citizens.”
There are plenty of opportunities for the GOP to replay the tough rhetoric. The February 7 emotional speech by the Democrats’ leader in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, recreated that opportunity. So did the statement by Democratic Sen. Tom Carper when he suggested February 5 that millions of sidelined Americans should be discarded so that ‘dreamer’ illegals can get jobs:
Today, when folks want to work in this country, there is still 2 to 3 million jobs unfilled. Unfilled! Nobody is there to do the jobs, they don’t have the education, the work skills, the work ethic, they can’t pass a drug test … are we going to send 700-800,00 [DACA illegal immigrants] people back home to the countries where they were born? They are perfectly capable of doing these jobs, they can pass a drug test, why would we do that?
But the effective rhetoric — Democrats prefer migrants to Americans — has been buried by McConnell since the shutdown, even though Democrats and their allies are eager to sway public opinion by describing Trump, GOP politicians, and GOP voters as bigots and racists.
D. Senate leaders have done nothing to build public support for moderate Sen. Chuck Grassley’s immigration bill, which is publicly backed by McConnell’s deputy, Texas Sen. John Cornyn. The Grassley bill implements Trump’s four-part framework plan and so would help nudge up Americans’ wages by reducing the extra supply of workers via legal chain immigration. Their inaction means no media debate about the impact of mass immigration on voters’ wages, salaries, or productivity in an age of ever-widening automation, even though business leaders are making their cheap-labor goals very clear. Dunkin’ Donuts CEO Nigel Travis said in a CNBC interview on February 9:
Skilled labor remains a challenge for Dunkin’s franchisees, and Travis emphasized the need for immigration reform. “We need more people. Talking to Democrats and Republicans, there seems to be a fair amount of agreement that it needs to be split between the amount of security and letting all people come into the country and becoming citizens — all we’re asking is to increase the labor pool.”
Immigration polls which ask people to pick a priority or decide which option is fair show that voters in the polling booth put a high priority on helping their families and fellow nationals get decent jobs in a high-tech, high-immigration, low-wage economy. Those results are very different from the “Nation of Immigrants” polls which are funded by business and progressives, and which pressure Americans to say they welcome migrants.
E. GOP Senators remain silent when Trump pushes his very popular immigration reform.
My Administration has identified three major priorities for creating a safe, modern and lawful immigration system: fully securing the border, ending chain migration, and canceling the visa lottery. Congress must secure the immigration system and protect Americans. pic.twitter.com/xV1lgfhjBU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Georgia Sen. David Perdue and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, however, are Trump’s most outspoken allies in the push for pro-American immigration reform.
If people really want to solve the DACA situation, secure our border, & fix the flaws in our current system that incentivize illegal immigration, they should be eager to support this plan. MORE: https://t.co/btMaaYsVs5
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) February 12, 2018
Tomorrow, 6 of my colleagues and I will introduce a proposal that will protect those eligible for DACA, but also make sure we don’t end up back here in 5 years by truly solving the underlying problems with our immigration system. MORE: https://t.co/T8f9SNpAiz
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 11, 2018
F. This week’s Senate debate on immigration was designed by McConnell, and it helps an informal coalition of Democrats and business-first Republicans collect 60 votes to pass an amnesty and prevent any cutbacks in legal immigration.
McConnell designed the even-handed debate rule after helping Democrats’ retreat from their pro-amnesty, unpopular and damaging government shutdown mistake in January. His rule says Senators will start with an empty bill and insert whatever proposals get 60 votes.
McConnell could have followed the normal procedure he used in the tough fight over the tax bill — only allow a vote on a single option. For example, he could have allowed only an up-or-down vote on Grassley’s bill implementing Trump’s four-part amnesty-and-immigration proposal. That single-vote strategy would force red-state Democrats and business-first Republicans to vote for Grassley’s immigration-and-amnesty bill if they wanted to have any popular pro-American immigration-reform vote on their resume before the November election, even though it comes packaged with an amnesty.
But McConnell’s empty-bill rules means that many Senators can first fake a vote for Trump’s plan — and then swiftly push through a pro-business, cheap-labor amnesty.
That process can be accomplished if Democratic Senators coordinate to keep the vote for Trump’s plan just below the threshold of 60 votes. Once that fake pro-Trump vote is accomplished, then 11 or more business-first Republicans can jump over the Democrats to deliver 60 votes for the amnesty bill they prefer to pass, for example, the amnesty plan developed by the swinging Senators or perhaps the plan offered by amnesty enthusiast Sen. Jeff Flake.
That fake-then-real vote process can help roughly ten red-state Democrats — and perhaps 15 business-first Republicans — wrap themselves in a pro-Trump vote before the November election while also delivering the amnesty sought by their business allies.
McConnell “could have started with the Grassley bill,” said Jenks. “I honestly can’t fathom it.”
The only way this [Senate debate] comes out as a positive for President Trump is if the Senate passes the Grassley bill, as it is, or with good amendments, and then it has to be conferenced with the Goodlatte bill from the House …
If the House and Senate Republicans leaders want to keep the House and Senate, the Grassley bill is the minimum that they have to get.
“President Trump clearly understands where the American people are” on immigration, Jenks said. “This was reflected in his campaign, and in his presidency, and he should not abandon it now.”