Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Distinguishing the Government from Us Key for Maintaining Limited Government

In this week's issue of The Weekly Standard, I note that, pace President Obama, we cannot simply equate the government with"us":
Over the spring and summer of 2013, perhaps still sunning in his November 2012 victory and ideologically extrapolating from this win, President Obama attempted to press the case that skeptics about federal power were outrĂ© paranoiacs. At the Ohio State University commencement in May, the president called upon his listeners to reject the voices of those who “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” In July, he trumpeted his administration’s commitment to technological innovation and managerial efficiency, arguing that it was “up to each of us and every one of us to make [government] work better.” We “all have a stake in government success—because the government is us.”
In light of these bold declarations, it is grimly amusing that the rollout of the Obamacare website and the individual mandate should be so flawed. The bureaucratic progressivism for which the president advocates requires faith on the part of the public in the efficiency and competence of government. When that faith is shaken, big-government schemes lose some of their luster. One of the main reasons to continue to assert the distinction between government and “us” is government’s limited competence: The fact that government is not omniscient offers a very practical reason why it should not be omnipotent. Like any other institution, government cannot know all the facts on the ground, nor can it know the perfect way to deal with or make use of the facts that it does know.
The Obamacare debacle reminds us again of the practical irreducibility of “us” to government. Indeed, the distinction between “government” and “us” is central to the project of republican liberty for the United States. One of the keys to maintaining the tradition of limited government is recognizing that it is part—and only part—of the broader society in which it operates. Our government, as Lincoln said, is of the people, by the people, and for the people—but it is not the people. 
The people are a mixed lot: young and old; Republican, Democratic, and independent; married and unmarried; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, and Hindu; for higher taxes and for lower taxes; unemployed and working; rich and poor; healthy and sick; and countless other permutations. Government cannot be everything to everybody. It cannot embody all the diverse wishes, hopes, and desires of the people—nor should it try.
 Read the rest here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Filibuster Fallout

At NRO, I suggest that conservatives might not want to follow progressives down the "nuclear option" rabbit hole on the filibuster and the other Senate institutions of consensus:
In politics, process matters often nearly as much as — if not more than — substance, and the procedure by which the filibuster was weakened last week by Senate Democrats is likely far more problematic than the rank hypocrisy of their doing so. It is hard to view the Democratic majority’s use of the “nuclear option” as anything other than an admission of weakness and of curbed ambition. After the increasingly problematic Obamacare debacle, it seems as though President Obama and his fellow Democrats have given up the hope of governing through a national consensus. Instead, Obama has signaled that he will try to rule with the club of 51 percent for the rest of his term: Push through as much as possible with a narrow majority.
Seeing its legislative program stalled by recalcitrant Republicans, perhaps the Obama administration believes that its best chance of implementing its agenda is through the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and court system. The nuclear option increases the administration’s control of the federal bureaucracy, but it also potentially transforms the institution of the Senate.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Still Trying

Politico reports on the fact that activist groups are still coordinating to try to get the House to take up the president's immigration agenda.  The aim is to try for something prior to the Thanksgiving recess.
To that end, Pelosi met with Steve Case on Tuesday. On Thursday, she, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California and Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California , John Yarmuth of Kentucky and George Miller of California are slated to meet with Richard Trumka and Bill Samuel of the AFL-CIO, Mary-Kay Henry of the SEIU, Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza, Frank Sharry of America’s Voice and Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change.
Pelosi and many of the same lawmakers are also slated to meet Thursday to discuss immigration reform with Facebook co-founder Zuckerberg, a Democratic aide confirmed. That will come one day after a similar meeting between Zuckerberg and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to a Schumer aide.
Outside supporters are also meeting with conservative power-brokers, who are key to whether immigration will make it onto the House agenda this year. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s staff met last week with its ad hoc coalitions group to discuss progress during the August recess.
The Gang of Eight (probably minus Sen. Marco Rubio, whose standing in presidential polls has taken a hit since he acted as the leading Republican spokesman for the Gang of Eight) is also meeting to try to push this issue.

For their part, opponents of the White House immigration plan say they'll be ready to battle it in the House.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sinking Incomes

As Wonkblog notes, new Census data suggests that the median US household made as much in 1989 as it did in 2012 when adjusting for inflation.
In 1989, the median American household made $51,681 in current dollars (the 2012 number, again, was $51,017). That means that 24 years ago, a middle class American family was making more than the a middle class family was making one year ago.
Incomes did climb throughout the 1990s.  But the median income has not eclipsed its 2000 peak, and there's been a pretty persistent decline in median income since 2007---including during the purported "recovery."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twelve Years Ago

Some thoughts I wrote on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 available here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Falling Teen Employment

McClatchy reports on a study showing a collapse in teen employment over the past decade:
In 1999, slightly more than 52 percent of teens 16 to 19 worked a summer job. By this year, that number had plunged to about 32.25 percent over June and July. It means that slightly more than three in 10 teens actually worked a summer job, out of a universe of roughly 16.8 million U.S. teens.
“We have never had anything this low in our lives. This is a Great Depression for teens, and no time in history have we encountered anything like that,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. “That’s why it’s such an important story.”
Not sure this exactly strengthens the case for an expansion of guest-worker programs, an aim of the White House and some in Congress.

Read more here:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Immigration and Wages

Oxford University's Paul Collier suggests that high levels of immigration can end up depressing the wages of recent immigrants:
Why are migrants not only the winners but also the big losers from migration?
The answer is that those who have already migrated lose, at least in economic terms, through the subsequent migration of others. Migrants lose because they compete with one another. 
Also speaking about wages and immigration, ABC/Fusion adds: "for black workers in particular, there has been evidence that immigration can depress wages among certain sectors of the workforce."

Reihan Salam has a rather extensive set of comments about the economic effects of mass "low-skilled" immigration.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MLK and the Constitution

For the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, I offer some thoughts about Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and the possibilities of Constitutional renewal.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Democratic Strategy

The Wall Street Journal notes some Democrats who are uncertain about going along with the president's and Senate's immigration agenda:
Like many of their GOP counterparts, hesitant House Democrats worry about how to handle the 11 million illegal immigrants already living in the U.S.
"I'm opposed to granting amnesty," said Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia, whose grandparents legally emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon. Creating a separate way this group can gain citizenship "would siphon scarce resources away from our already-overwhelmed immigration system and would be unfair to those other immigrants, past and present, who have dutifully waited for their turn to legally enter our country," he said.
Some House Democrats fret that any new immigration laws could repeat what they consider the mistakes of a 1986 law that legalized many illegal immigrants and included measures to stop illegal crossings.
"I want to be certain that it's not 1986 all over again," said Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, who said he's concerned some lawmakers might be willing in future negotiations to roll back the provisions to beef up border security, which were added to the Senate bill in a bid to win GOP support. "I have concerns about if the federal government will be serious about enforcing immigration law in the future," he said.
Of course, many Democrats and some Republicans who ended up voting in the Senate in favor of the Gang of Eight bill also said they were against "amnesty."  From Obamacare to the stimulus to (in the Senate) immigration politics, the White House has been pretty successful at bending Congressional Democrats to its will.  Skeptics about the "comprehensive" immigration agenda should not take too much comfort from these statements.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kids Act and other DREAMs

Peter Skerry looks at Democratic opposition to the Kids Act and some of the other implications of illegal immigration for political dynamics.

Remember the Workers

At NRO, I look at the current employment picture and suggest some of the need for the GOP to develop policy alternatives:
This breakdown in opportunity also increases government spending and public intervention in the marketplace, sometimes with disastrous results. It is very likely, for instance, that the slowdown in economic growth in the 2000s encouraged many politicians of both parties to look the other way during the inflation of the housing bubble of the 2000s: Accelerating housing values helped make up for wage stagnation and the other trials of the middle and working classes. Meanwhile, cheap labor might be cheap for the employer, but it is rather expensive for today’s American taxpayer. Every worker struggling at the economic margins adds to the growing appetite for government subsidies, from Medicaid to SNAP to housing programs. For those serious about reducing the deficit, improving the economic circumstances of those at the economic margins (and those in the middle) would be a decisive step forward.
Republicans have an opportunity to confront these issues in the months ahead by laying out a set of policy alternatives. But they need to keep their eyes on the big picture. Many on the right note that an increased minimum wage is far from an economic panacea, but explaining the limits of minimum-wage increases is not enough. Nor is another round of financial brinksmanship over the budget likely to address these concerns fully. Collaborating with the Senate on its immigration bill, which would hurt workers already here, seems unlikely to improve the bargaining power of labor. As neoliberal writer Mickey Kaus has argued, for all the president’s protestations about income inequality, the signature domestic initiative of his second term (his immigration agenda) could very well worsen inequality. There is little reason for Republicans — or, frankly, Democrats — to sign on to that outcome.
Reigniting economic vitality and growth would be a key step to turning around the employment picture. Stronger economic growth could generate an upward demand for workers. A stronger demand increases workers’ opportunities for better employment conditions and higher wages in two ways: It helps workers increase their wages at their current job, and it creates opportunities for workers to move on to higher-paying jobs. When there is a glut of the unemployed, it is easy to fill a staff with part-timers. A tighter labor market due to a strongly growing economy would encourage employers to be more efficient and to invest in new technologies, while also making the labor of the employee a more valuable commodity.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: Rich Lowry's Lincoln Unbound

Rich Lowry’s new book on Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Unbound, offers itself as an argument via biography, using Lincoln’s life to explore the meaning of his ideas.  Lowry presents Lincoln as a model of what Republican governance could mean and an exemplar of what the free market can accomplish.

One of the key arguments of Lincoln Unbound is that Lincoln fought for an industrialized, market-oriented United States as a way of extending the project of liberation.  Lowry casts Lincoln as a descendent of Henry Clay, who sought to nurture nascent American industry and thereby increase US economic might.  For Lincoln and others, Lowry suggests, the seeds of political liberty within the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution should be complemented by the project of economic and industrial modernization.  Canals, roads, and railways knit the nation together, allowing individuals in formerly remote areas to participate in a broader market.  This participation helped break the cycle of subsistence farming, and in turn extended the reach of opportunity.

Lowry casts Lincoln as a paradigmatic figure for this transformation; the transition from the son of a poor farmer to prairie lawyer to US president recapitulates the broader hopes of Lincoln for American modernization.  Just as Lincoln was able to rise in the world through participating in the opportunities of the market, so too could any number of Americans.  And Lincoln sought to increase this number of Americans to make it as large as possible.  For Lincoln, opportunity was not meant to be limited to the lucky elect; rather, opportunity should be a feast for all.

Lowry argues that, for Lincoln and his allies, the plantation economy was both politically and economically backward-looking.  Along with its other grievous moral wrongs, the slave system denied both political and economic agency to slaves.  This lack of agency contaminated the whole of the plantation economy.  This plantation system avoided technological progress and instead celebrated an agrarian model with colossal and fixed differences between the super-elite and the masses of laboring poor.

The argument that Lowry advances in this book is one well worth making and one that comes at an opportune time.  The past decade or so has witnessed a tremendous slow-down in economic growth and the hollowing out of opportunity for the middle class.  Many have estimated that economic mobility has declined in the United States.  This economic decline has increased human misery and also opened the door for larger centralized government intervention, which can itself be used to benefit the powerful at the expense of the average worker (or aspiring worker).  Detroit’s bankruptcy provides a stark contemporary context for Lincoln Unbound: the city of industry and a formerly middle-class metropolis (a city that in many ways realized the aspirations of Lincoln) now---due to a variety of social, economic, and political factors---teeters on the brink.

The final chapter of Lincoln Unbound recounts some of the opportunity shortfalls of the present and offers some possible Lincolnian policy responses.  In addition to including economic suggestions (such as making better use of natural resources and investing in infrastructure), this list also focuses on questions of civic and social temperament (such as interest in the average worker, support for education, and an elevation of the culture).  Some of these suggestions are not simply matters of government policy but also demand broader social reform.  For example, enterprises that would elevate the culture would go far beyond focusing on specific pieces of legislation; instead, they would participate in a broader social conversation.

Lowry aims this book at everyone, but it particularly speaks to the electoral difficulties currently facing Republicans.  Lincoln  Unbound suggests some ways in which the Republican party and conservatism can reenergize themselves not by selling out principles but instead by turning to face some of the pressing issues of the moment with a renewed political imagination.

Lincoln Unbound helps recover an alterative way of talking about politics and the organization of political principles into a governing philosophy.  Lincoln offers a political approach that combines market capitalism with moral uplift and civic freedom with a defense of republican legitimacy.  For Lincoln and many of his fellow Republicans, personal virtue and moral probity were important components of self-governance; morality itself, they found, was a vehicle for achieving true liberty.  At a time when the nation-state is viewed with some skepticism by transnational progressives and various globalists, Lincoln’s vision offers a defense of a national republic as a way of extending the enjoyment of civil liberty and the recognition of human dignity.  Lincoln at his best does not defend a caricature of capitalism in which “maker” wars against “taker” but instead celebrates the aspiration and worth of all men and women.  This book makes a case for the notion that free markets and technological advancements can work for the good of humanity.  Those who defended the Union during the Civil War recognized that a balanced budget alone was not enough to ensure freedom: the maintenance of liberty required a republic vigorous in self-defense and strong in moral vision (but not drunk on self-righteousness), and also demanded the nurturing of a civic culture capable of sustaining a free republic.

Clearly written and often subtly argued, Lincoln Unbound performs one of the important roles of historical narratives: it sifts through past traditions in order to cast light on the present and to suggest the value of some enduring principles.

(Disclosure: I occasionally contribute to National Review Online, which Lowry edits.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Fall of Detroit

Zero Hedge lists 25 details associated with the bankruptcy of Detroit (including the decline of manufacturing employment, the breakdown of public safety infrastructure, and population shrinkage).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Polling Says

National Journal has a poll out showing that only 29% of Americans want the Senate bill passed as is.  The rest want increased border security, the pathway to citizenship stripped, or no bill to be passed at all.  And this poll, in describing the Senate bill, does not mention its increase in guest-worker programs or effects on legal immigration.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Some Immigration-Related Links

Andrew Stiles wonders at the political price some Democrats may pay for following the White House line on immigration.

Boehner adds his voice to those in the GOP supporting some kind of legalization for those brought here illegally as children.  Cantor is another big supporter of this measure.

Meanwhile, a House bipartisan group continues its immigration discussions.

Ramesh Ponnuru says that GOP should forget about the Senate's version of "comprehensive" immigration legislation---and forge its own path.

Michael Warren argues that the GOP can expand its coalition without sacrificing principle.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Disappointing Recovery

A new report suggests that wages fell in most professions during the 2009-2012 period, especially for lower-paid jobs.

Glass-Steagal Returns?

It seems Elizabeth Warren is leading a bipartisan group of senators who want to restore Glass-Steagall:
A bipartisan group of senators led by Massachusetts freshman Democrat Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill Thursday to reinstate the Great Depression-era Glass-Steagall law that would separate commercial from investment banks.
Speaking at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, Warren said that the point of her bill was “keeping the gamblers out of our banks.” Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Angus King, I-Maine, are co-sponsoring the measure.
The new Glass-Steagall provision, intended to counter the threat of too-big-to-fail banks, would separate banks that offer savings and checking accounts to consumers from firms that engage in other, riskier financial services, such as investment banking and hedge fund management. The non-commercial banks would not be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
There have been some other attempts to try to ward off the dangers of Too Big to Fail (led by David Vitter and Sherrod Brown), but many of these efforts have not gained much legislative support.

I've written before about the possible benefit of taking on Too Big to Fail.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Against the Bill

In a joint editorial, The Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and National Review editor Rich Lowry attack the Senate immigration bill---and call upon the House to kill it:
There is no case for the bill, and certainly no urgency to pass it. During the debate over immigration in 2006–07, Republican rhetoric at times had a flavor that communicated a hostility to immigrants as such. That was a mistake, and it did political damage. This time has been different. The case against the bill has been as responsible as it has been damning.
It’s become clear that you can be pro-immigrant and pro-immigration, and even favor legalization of the 11 million illegal immigrants who are here and increases in some categories of legal immigration – and vigorously oppose this bill.
The bill’s first fatal deficiency is that it doesn’t solve the illegal-immigration problem. The enforcement provisions are riddled with exceptions, loopholes, and waivers. Every indication is that they are for show and will be disregarded, just as prior notional requirements to build a fence or an entry/exit visa system have been – and just as President Obama has recently announced he’s ignoring aspects of Obamacare that are inconvenient to enforce on schedule. Why won’t he waive a requirement for the use of E-Verify just as he’s unilaterally delayed the employer mandate? The fact that the legalization of illegal immigrants comes first makes it all the more likely that enforcement provisions will be ignored the same way they were after passage of the 1986 amnesty.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wednesday Thoughts

At NRO, I offer some thoughts about the House GOP's strategy for immigration reform.  The caucus is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss this issue.  Here are a couple of the points I make:
The Senate legislation won’t “fix” the nation’s immigration system. Like Reagan’s 1986 amnesty, it provides legalization before enforcement. It is larded with loopholes for executive discretion and abuse. It creates huge new government programs (such as the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research) to oversee the economy. Its guest-worker programs undermine market principles and will put new pressures on the middle class. It will not end illegal immigration.
A House “compromise” bill that keeps most of these features would be a very small improvement over the Senate bill. Any plan offering legalization first would basically be saying “In Barack Obama We Trust,” at a time when Americans, in the recent string of scandals, are otherwise running up against new reasons not to.
The Senate bill fixates on “border security,” but border security is not the only point at issue for illegal immigration. Enforcement within the U.S. is crucial; currently, about 40 percent of illegal immigrants are visa-overstayers, a percentage that could grow under the Senate bill because of its increase in the number of temporary visas offered each year. Despite the promises of its supporters, the bill will not end illegal immigration, and it might not even make much of a dent or reduce it at all. The Congressional Budget Office’s most optimistic estimate is that the bill, after all the extra billions that the Corker-Hoeven amendment would send to the border, would cut illegal immigration by a third to a half. That reduced flow could still lead, the CBO implies, to over 7.5 million illegal immigrants in the United States by 2023. That fails the standards professed by Senator Rubio and Senator Schumer. And that number assumes that the promises of enforcement will actually be somewhat realized. There is a very good chance that various provisions — from the fence to the Border Patrol “surge” to E-Verify — could also be put off (witness the Obama administration’s recent decisions to postpone key parts of the health-care law).
Money isn’t everything. Some very large donors may be pushing “comprehensive” immigration reform, but all the money in the world won’t necessarily carry to victory a party without a solid governing philosophy. For a political party, victory at the polls is far more important than vacuuming up donor dollars. Recent electoral history is littered with candidates — from Meg Whitman to Linda McMahon to Rudy Giuliani — who spent big bucks for minimal electoral success. While President Obama significantly outraised Senator John McCain in 2008, this time around Mitt Romney — when individual candidate totals, party funds, and super-PAC spending are accounted for — probably spent about as much as President Obama did. Yet with all those extra hundreds of millions in spending, Governor Romney barely won more votes than Senator McCain and improved on McCain’s share of the popular vote by less than two points and won back two states. And this modest improvement was in an environment much less favorable to Obama than in 2008, which was one of the worst electoral scenarios for the GOP within recent memory.
Lacking a message that addressed some of the central concerns of the economic middle, Republicans struggled with the working and middle classes in 2012. That contributed to the defeat of their presidential nominee and many of their congressional contenders. A Republican candidate can raise a billion dollars in 2016, but without a forward-looking economic policy, conservatives should look forward to more disappointment on November 8, 2016. With its likely downward pressure on wages and economic opportunity for those at the economic middle and margins, the Senate bill could prove a stumbling block for a message of popular economic uplift.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Regarding Gettysburg

Lincoln said it the best:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Let's keep that hope of a new birth of freedom in mind on this nation's birthday.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Breaking Down a Pattern of Failure

James Pethokoukis notes the pattern of bank failures in the economy and argues that excessively concentrated financialization has harmed US economic growth:
Over the past three decades, the U.S. financial system has suffered a nasty financial shock every half dozen years or so, on average. And each incarnation has been different — from the 1987 stock-market crash to the savings-and-loan crisis to the demise of Long-Term Capital Management to the Great Global Financial Crisis, which arguably began six years ago this summer with the collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds.
If life were like the movies, it would be time for some world-weary-but-knowing character to drop the now-hackneyed line, “There’s a storm coming.” And whatever form that storm might take, would Wall Street be ready to weather it? Or more important for Main Street, would the U.S. economy be able to withstand another financial blowup without resorting to yet another taxpayer bailout?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

68-32 and Autopsy (A Certain Immigration Update)

 A daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
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Passing the Senate 68-32, S. 744 got 14 Republicans, 52 Democrats, and 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats.  No Democrat---whether he or she ran against amnesty or in favor of border-security first or to defend the working class---voted against the measure.  After the passage of Corker-Hoeven, this bill also got precisely zero votes on further amendments to the bill.

The Gang of Eight controlled this immigration bill from beginning to end.  The Senate judiciary committee was stacked with Gang allies, and Corker-Hoeven was written in conjunction with the Gang.  The Gang did a very good job of politically maneuvering this bill.  The CBO report last week caused some real turbulence for S. 744, but Corker-Hoeven's promises of border enforcement and many giveaways helped push the bill over the top.

Of course, recent reports have made clear that the White House held ultimate veto authority over much of this bill.  Thanks to the work of the Gang, the White House has gotten what it wanted in this bill.  There's a reason why Democrats in the Senate supported it uniformly.  The president and his allies have so far been able to convince various left-leaning groups to ignore their misgivings about income inequality, worker exploitation, and border security in order to give the administration a big domestic win.  As they did with Obamacare, Senate Democrats have walked the line for the president.

Many Republicans, centrists, and pro-worker Democrats seem to hope that the House will stop this bill.  Speaker Boehner's statement that he will only support an immigration conference bill if it has a majority of Republicans backing it might increase those hopes.  But, if you read between the lines of this thorough Jonathan Strong piece on House immigration politics, you might see that some GOP members still have an appetite for passing some bill, even a fairly "comprehensive" one.  Paul Ryan seems to be taking on more and more of a role supporting a bill that has a combination of legalization, guest-worker programs, border security, and changes to the legal immigration system.  Despite the rhetoric that the Senate immigration bill is DOA in the House, S. 744's basic structure might still have some legislative life in it.

Speaking of rhetoric...

Rubio offers a final statement supporting his immigration bill---but didn't really get into the specifics of this bill, instead talking about his family history and the glory of America.  (John McCormack writes, "Rubio's passionate, eloquent support for bill containing path to citizenship almost as passionate, eloquent as past opposition to such bills.")

Schumer ended in a similar vein:  "Immigrants have been an essential component to our American success story. To reject this basic truth in this vote today would be a direct rebuke to the lady who shines so brightly in New York's harbor."  So the senator from New York seems to be saying that to vote against S. 744 (which could very easily harm the wages of recent immigrants) is to reject the value of immigrants in American society and the Statue of Liberty.  Schumer's not exactly leaving room open for respectful disagreement.  Is he accusing skeptics of this bill of being anti-American?

T. A. Frank has not been co-opted by the Obama administration.  Writing in The New Republic, Frank argues that those on the left should be concerned about this bill's effects on low-wage workers:
If I have a plea to my fellow liberals more broadly, it’s that they focus more of their empathy on fellow Americans being left behind. Because we increasingly live in bubbles, many of us are at best only abstractly aware of how cruelly circumstances of unskilled Americans have deteriorated over the past few decades.  Even as these Americans have lost their well-paid manufacturing jobs, Washington has looked the other way while millions of low-skilled unauthorized immigrants have competed with them for low-skilled service jobs. The insouciance of privileged Americans toward the effects of this on life among less-privileged Americans is, in my view, a betrayal of citizenship.
If we are to have any hope of regaining any control over our own immigration policy—which is to say, our destiny as a nation—then we must ensure that everyone has an incentive to follow the laws on who gets to be here and who does not.  Otherwise, we will shred the few remaining safety nets we have, and the dream of dignity for all American citizens will slip farther and farther, perhaps permanently, out of reach.  No matter how magnificently Chuck Schumer claims the contrary.
(Programming note: I still plan on following the immigration bill debates in Congress.  If/when the time seems appropriate, new updates will be sent out, but I can't guarantee a daily mailing.  So keep an eye on your inboxes, and thanks for reading!)

(Link to this issue here.)     

Votes Ahead? (A Certain Immigration Update)

 A daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
Want to subscribe?  Sign up here.  Or email me to subscribe.

Politico reports that negotiations over inserting amendments may be breaking down, putting the Gang further away from its goal of 70 votes:
Potential swing GOP votes began to peel away from the reform effort Wednesday. A source familiar with the discussions told POLITICO that the negotiators are no longer trying to woo Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) because they see his demands on agricultural workers as an insurmountable hurdle. Two other Republicans, who had backed a so-called border surge plan, then turned around to reject a procedural move to advance the bill...
Barring a breakthrough agreement on amendments, the Senate is set to vote on two procedural votes on Thursday. Final passage would come Friday, although senators — ready to speed back to their home states for the July 4 recess — could agree to move up the vote.

Andrew Stiles at NRO has many more details about the battle over amendments: "Further votes on amendments to the Gang of Eight immigration bill may be unlikely, as lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement on which amendments, and how many, to allow a vote on."

On Wednesday, the only vote we got was a 67-31 cloture vote to advance the main bill.

Rubio offers a defense of his immigration bill.  He reiterates the concerns of those who criticize the Obama administration's record.  He specifically denies that future Congresses cannot change the funding of the bill...Meanwhile, Sarah Palin calls for primaries for Ayotte and Rubio....Speaking of elections, Sean Trende argues that the GOP does not need to pass immigration "reform" in order to remain viable....

National Journal poll: "Overall, 77 percent of respondents opposed making government benefits available to legalized (but noncitizen) immigrants."

In an interesting post, Bill Kristol comes out hard against "comprehensive immigration reform":
So if Republicans want to win House and Senate seats in 2014, John Boehner should kill the Senate bill—first refusing to take it up in the House, and also by making clear the House will refuse to go to conference with it. The House can still pass specific bills to address particular immigration issues this session (which presumably the Senate won't take up—but let Harry Reid explain his refusal to do so). But the key is for Boehner to kill "comprehensive" immigration "reform" in this session of Congress.

Boehner might have a tightrope walk ahead of him on immigration reform, especially with rising anger about the Senate bill.

Ryan and Boehner now seem to be suggesting that Gang of 8 bill will not be voted on in the House---but hope for the House's own legislation (which could be melded with Gang of 8 bill in conference).  Ryan seems to be taking on a leading role in the House immigration debate and seems to be supporting a plan that has some component of legalization, guest-worker programs, and further enforcement.  See his interview here with Hannity for further details about what Ryan is thinking about (Hannity seems skeptical).

On Thursday, a House committee will mark up a tech-related immigration measure.

(Link to this issue here.)    

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Facts Go Forward---Maybe (A Certain Immigration Update)

A daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
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John McCormack suggests that many senators might need to think about the implications of S. 744 a bit more:
Obamacare poses a tricky problem for supporters of the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill. It would be too politically toxic to give illegal immigrants amnesty and taxpayer subsidies under Obamacare, so the Senate bill prohibits "registered provisional immigrants" (individuals who are now residing illegally in the United States granted legal status under the bill) from receiving Obamacare subsidies. But in so doing the Senate's immigration bill would create a big financial incentive for some employers to hire non-citizens granted legal status over American citizens.
As the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein recently reported: "Under Obamacare, businesses with over 50 workers that employ American citizens without offering them qualifying health insurance could be subject to fines of up to $3,000 per worker. But because newly legalized immigrants wouldn’t be eligible for subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges until after they become citizens – at least 13 years under the Senate bill – businesses could avoid such fines by hiring the new immigrants instead."
On Tuesday afternoon, THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked five different U.S. Senators about this problem. These five senators, all Democrats, voted to cut off debate Monday night on the revised immigration bill, but none of them knew if the bill would create a financial incentive for some employers to hire amnestied immigrants instead of American citizens.
More thoughts along those lines here.

Rubio and McCain are boasting about how happy they are with the security provisions of this bill.

Rand Paul explains why he's against S. 744:
Of paramount concern is what to do with the 12 million people currently residing in the United States who are in legal limbo. No one is seriously contemplating they leave, but conservatives believe that normalizing their status should only follow serious efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexican border. And I’m sorry to say that the Gang of Eight’s proposal is just not serious.

Orrin Hatch explains why he's in favor of it:
This legislation significantly strengthens border security. An amendment by my colleagues Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., means that an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents will be stationed along the southern border, more than doubling the current force.
It also requires that an additional 700 miles of fencing be built and that E-verify — an Internet-based system that ensures that employers hire only legal workers — be used by all businesses in the country, making it virtually impossible to work in the United States illegally.
Some have said this bill grants amnesty, but that’s just not true. We have de facto amnesty right now, and this bill fixes that. The fact is that in order to be put on a pathway to citizenship, immigrants currently here illegally would be required to pay a fine, pass criminal and national security background checks and pay taxes. 
Was there a "de facto amnesty" in 1986 or 2007, when Hatch voted against "reform"? 

Erick Erickson reminds us what various senators said about illegal immigration and "amnesty" while they were on the campaign trial.  Byron York also looks at Rubio's past statements.

No votes in the Senate on immigration on Tuesday, but Roll Call provides a handy schedule for the votes ahead:
  • A vote to adopt the omnibus amendment that includes the “border surge” from GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota could happen as early as 1 a.m. Wednesday. [FB update: Did not happen.]
  • Right after that, the Senate would vote on a procedural motion to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on the amendment reported by the Judiciary Committee, with all the other changes added on the floor.
  • The actual vote to adopt that substitute amendment would come due 30 hours thereafter, probably sometime before 8 a.m. Thursday.
  • That would be followed by a vote on the cloture motion to bring to a close debate on the whole thing, with another 30 hours to wait before the vote on final passage.
  • So, if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., finds that Republicans want him to grind through everything, the bill could still be done Friday afternoon, allowing him to meet his goal of getting out of town for the July Fourth recess with the immigration bill passed.
Mitch McConnell is hopeful that something can be worked out on immigration---in a House-Senate conference bill.

A National Journal poll suggests that those Republicans who vote for this bill might find themselves in some electoral hot water with voters back home:
A sizable plurality of registered GOP voters say they will be less likely to support their incumbent lawmaker if he or she votes for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for those currently living illegally in the United States, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll. The findings show that even as national Republican leaders tout the Senate's reform measure as a political necessity for the party, it remains a risky vote for individual GOP lawmakers wary of a primary challenger.
This could also affect some Democrats in Republican-leaning states.  (Perhaps that possibility of a backlash influenced Arizona governor Jan Brewer's clarification that she does not support S. 744 after all.)

(Link to this issue here.)     

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Over the Hurdle (A Certain Immigration Update)

daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
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Cloture passed on Corker-Hoeven 67-27.  The vote list is as follows:
YEAs ---67
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boxer (D-CA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chiesa (R-NJ)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cowan (D-MA)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hirono (D-HI)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wicker (R-MS)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs ---27
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Fischer (R-NE)
Grassley (R-IA)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Not Voting - 6
Brown (D-OH)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Enzi (R-WY)
Isakson (R-GA)
Lee (R-UT)
Udall (D-CO)

No Democrat voted against cloture.  Interesting pro-cloture votes: Alexander and Wicker.  Interesting anti-cloture: Portman and Toomey.  Chambliss and Isakson say that they would have voted against cloture.

This is not the last cloture vote the legislation needs to survive, as Roll Call explains:
If all debate time is used, the next cloture vote is likely to take place Wednesday on the Judiciary Committee’s version of the bill (as amended on the floor). The third and final vote on limiting debate could come 30 hours after that, with passage following another 30 hours after that.
Corker told reporters Monday evening that work was ongoing on an agreement that could permit up to 10 amendments from each side. Such an agreement could cut down on the number of hours that need to run before work’s finished, meeting Reid’s Fourth of July recess deadline.
 It still is unclear why July 4 is a deadline for this bill.  (Or is it so unclear? Reid Wilson explains how backers of the Gang of Eight might find themselves a bit worried about popular energies mobilizing against this bill.  Perhaps the fact that Ted Cruz's anti-S. 744 petition already has 100,000 signatures concerns them.)

 OTHER NEWS: Some GOP senators are unhappy with the amendment process....both Hatch and Corker admit that future Congresses could kill the enforcement promises of Corker-Hoeven....CBO: We guess Corker-Hoeven lowers illegal immigration somewhat....the ICE union does not support Corker-Hoeven....some of Rubio's old supporters wonder at his current stance on illegal immigration...Rubio's poll numbers are slipping....

IT'S THE RESPECT: On Monday, Mickey Kaus had a passionately written piece on the significance of valuing labor: "If we lose that idea–if we’re so high-powered and skills-oriented and productive that we don’t have time to respect or acknowledge basic lunchbucket Americans–they’ll have to rewrite about half the country songs ever written. And we’ll have lost what was close to a defining trait of our country (as well as the normative basis for replacing welfare with work). Socially and morally, this is the crux of the immigration debate. It’s not about money but respect."

I have some of my own thoughts about respect scheduled to appear in National Review today: "One of the things that most ails both our country and the future of classical conservatism is the crisis of opportunity. The immigration bill now being pushed through the Senate does little to solve, and possibly does much to worsen, that problem."  Read the rest at NRO (can't say for sure when it will go live).

ELSEWHERE IN PUNDIT LAND: Andrew C. McCarthy: "It is astounding that any lawmaker could vote for this beast and still call himself a conservative supporter of limited government."....Mark Levin: turn up the fear....Fawn Johnson: Maybe the August recess will kill this bill after all....

BEYOND THE HILL: Later today, the White House will hold a meeting with Congressional leaders on immigration.

(Link to this issue here.)    

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Rush Is On (A Certain Immigration Update)

A daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
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It's Monday.  At 5:30 pm, it will be time to vote for cloture on 1200-page immigration bill amendment that was just introduced on Friday afternoon.  The main event of today is the cloture vote, and the main immigration-policy event of this weekend was reading those 1200 pages to see what was changed or added.  (Tom Jones has a helpful version showing text changes here.)

Here's a partial round-up of these findings on Corker-Hoeven.

  • 1. It’s so darn expensive
  • 2. It’s Congressional micromanagement on steroids
  • 3. The trigger isn’t as powerful as it seems at first blush
  • 4. System to track foreigners will have big gaps
  • 5. Tens of billions for the border, but little further away (PS: Even Corker admits severe limits to internal enforcement)   
--The Schumer-Corker-Hoeven amendment doesn’t change the bill’s amnesty first framework.  Instead it goes even further and creates an automatic amnesty for future illegal aliens.  Section 2302 says if you overstay your visa in the future you can still apply for a green card and become a citizen.  It is permanent lawlessness.  Joined with existing language that restricts future enforcement, it guarantees unending illegal immigration.
--Contrary to their rhetoric there is no border surge.  The Secretary doesn’t even have to start hiring new border patrol agents until 2017, and the amendment only gives her until 2021 to increase the number by 20,000.  According to the National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents, this hiring process could take up to 20 years.  Much like the 2006 law requiring a 700-mile border fence, it’s never going to be happen.
--To raise money, the amendment increases fees on visas for legal immigrants, but keeps the same low fees and fines for those applying for amnesty – favoring illegal over legal immigrants.  Under the 2007 comprehensive immigration bill, amnesty applicants had to pay up to $8,000 – vastly more than the fines in the current plan which total only $2,000 and are subject to numerous waivers.  The Gang has repeatedly claimed their bill is completely paid for by fees.  However, under the Schumer-Corker-Hoeven amendment, the American taxpayers are on the hook for $38 billion.
Bill Jacobson: Yes, DHS can still waive a lot of the requirements.

Byron York surveys some of the details of this new bill...and a new jobs plan in it...

Mickey Kaus reminds folks that these enforcement promises could easily be broken:
Nothing this Congress does, remember, can prevent future Congresses from reneging on the back end of this “legalize first” deal. Budget considerations alone will mean the advertised ”surge” won’t be sustained–as Obama’s earlier 1,500 man National Guard surge wasn’t sustained.  Future lawmakers will be looking around for “offsetting” spending cuts and that bloated 40,000 man border patrol will stick out like a nail that wants to be hammered. Plus, once
Democrats have eaten their meal illegal immigrants have their legalization in hand, Democrats will lose 80% of their motivation to make good on the law’s elaborate promises. They’re already unhappy with the back end of the deal–Sen. Leahy calls it “a Christmas wish list for Halliburton.”  Meanwhile, militarizing the border is drawing immediate protests. Business interests–especially farmers–can be expected to oppose the requirement that they use a computerized system to check new hires. There will be little to stop these forces–the ones that have blocked enforcement until now–except some Republican pols saying “But … but you pwomised!”
Kaus also notes some loopholes for the fencing, E-Verify, the border patrol, and more...

The Hill: "A Senate Republican amendment to the immigration bill that calls for tougher border security includes language that could allow millions of immigrants to apply for a green card without most of the new enforcement measures in place."

Who might benefit from this new amendment?  The media have noted numerous set-asides inserted into this bill.

For Alaska's Murkowski (R) and Begich (D), as Byron York reports:
The Hoeven-Corker amendment says the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research must “devise a methodology…to designate shortage occupations in zone 1 occupations, zone 2 occupations, and zone 3 occupations.” And then it adds, pretty much out of nowhere: “Such methodology must designate Alaskan seafood processing in zones 1, 2, and 3 as shortage occupations.” The next paragraph reiterates: “Alaskan seafood processing in zones 1, 2, and 3 must be designated as shortage occupations.” No other state receives such special treatment. Just Alaska, in what appears to be a favor to a powerful fisheries industry looking for low-cost labor. Why did Alaska merit such special consideration? The bill doesn’t say. But Sen. Murkowski has been an early non-Gang supporter of the immigration reform effort, and Sen. Begich is an endangered Democrat up for re-election in 2014 who needs to show Alaska voters that he is delivering for them.
For Nevada's Reid (D) and Heller (R), some help in the tourism industry is included (as Breitbart reports below):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) have inserted a provision that amounts to little more than a handout to Las Vegas casinos into the repackaged immigration reform bill, Breitbart News has learned. This provision, a brazen example of crony capitalism, was inserted into the immigration law enforcement section of the bill despite the fact that it has nothing whatsoever to do with "immigration" or "law enforcement."

On page 66 of the repackaged bill, the following provision appears:
“CORPORATION FOR TRAVEL PROMOTION.—Sec- 9(d)(2)(B) of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (22 U.S.C. 2131(d)(2)(B)) is amended by striking ‘‘For each of fiscal years 2012 through 2015,’’ and inserting ‘‘For each fiscal year after 2012.”
The Travel Promotion Act (TPA) of 2009 allows the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury to spend up to $100 million on promoting travel to specific areas of the country. If the provision Reid and Heller inserted into the proposed immigration reform legislation becomes law, the benefits of the TPA would be extended indefinitely.

Pundits react: Jay Cost: "Increasingly, it looks as though the Corker-Hoeven amendment is a Christmas tree of goodies meant to secure wavering lawmakers"...Bill Kristol is not impressed....neither is Brit Hume...Yuval Levin: "Is this any way to make such an important set of decisions about the country’s future?"....Good round-up of the Sunday shows' clash of the senators on immigration at Hot Air...

Sarah Palin isn't exactly fond of the immigration bill:
But a key part of American exceptionalism is the rule of law. Border security is fundamental to the rule of law, as is incentivizing those who follow the legal path to citizenship instead of punishing them by promoting lawbreakers. This is non-negotiable.  It’s time our lawmakers remember that we are a sovereign nation of laws. This bill ignores that, and ignores the will of the people. The continued porous border goes against what politicians assured us was in this mountain-high bill, and in typical D.C. style it flies in the face of what many politicians campaigned on. I heard their campaign promises. You heard them, too.
It’s time for concerned Americans to flood our legislators’ phone lines with the input they need to hear from We the People. Join the mama grizzlies who are rearing up tirelessly to swat away false claims that amnesty is a good thing. Michelle Malkin rightly said the issue is not secure the border first, it’s “secure the border. Period.” Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter have also offered superb warnings on amnesty’s economic impacts to the middle class.
The US Chamber of Commerce is unleashing a new ad on Monday to support the Gang of Eight's bill.  Two ironies:
  • It features a speech made by Sen. Rand Paul, who has denounced S. 744.
  • It encourages voters to call to end "de facto amnesty," even though millions will stay in "de facto amnesty" (as Marco Rubio puts it) even if the bill passes.
In NYT: Yes, the White House played a major role in drafting immigration bill...and potentially some Democrats are still on the fence because of fears about what this bill might mean for average Americans: "Liberals like Mr. Sanders and Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, remain concerned about new visa programs and their effect on American workers and wages. The jobless rate, 7.6 percent, is three percentage points higher than six years ago, and income inequality has widened."  Interesting point in latter NYT story: "most Democrats concede that barring an abrupt shift in the political climate, they will almost certainly fall in line behind their leaders."

(Link to this issue here.)   

Friday, June 21, 2013

Corker-Hoeven Launches

A brand new draft of the immigration bill is coming out.  The cloture vote on this new draft will take place on Monday.  Tom Jones has some pieces of the Corker-Hoeven amendment here.

The President's Amendment

Interesting detail from this Politico story shows how closely President Obama was involved in Corker-Hoeven negotiations:
But at the height of the talks [about the amendment on] Tuesday, the president weighed in with Schumer from Air Force One while traveling through Europe.

Over a shaky line — they had to be reconnected twice — Obama told Schumer that the 90 percent trigger was unacceptable. Schumer said they were trying to find a different benchmark, and Obama told him to keep working toward an agreement.

Riding to the Rescue (A Certain Immigration Update)

A daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
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The big news of Thursday seems to be the Corker-Hoeven amendment.  This amendment was announced late Wednesday night and dominated much of the headlines on Thursday.  (Mickey Kaus provides an evolving analysis of this amendment here.)

A big challenge in talking about Corker-Hoeven is that the legislative text is still being drafted.  We have no clue what enforcement provisions will be watered down and what loopholes will be inserted.  For example, on Wednesday night, amendment sponsors were saying that the amendment had a "hard trigger" to ensure some level of enforcement effectiveness before newly legalized immigrants could proceed on the "path to citizenship."  By Thursday afternoon, that trigger was gone.  One thing that won't change for the amendment: legalization will always come before any enforcement targets.

Some might wonder whether the findings of the CBO report that S. 744 will not cause a huge reduction in illegal immigration started a panic among the Gang.  That report yanked away what cover Republicans and Democrats who ran on enforcement had to support the bill.  This new amendment could be used by S. 744 supporters to argue that the CBO calculation was outdated.  (However, CBO suggested that S. 744's colossal new guest-worker programs could be a source for future illegal immigration, as workers overstayed their visas.  Does even a quintupling of border patrol agents combat that risk?  Will Corker-Hoeven?) The Gang rushed to get this amendment in the public debate even before its legislative language was finalized.  Was that rush partially caused by panic?  (PS: Consider what Sen. Corker had to say about "amnesty" back in 2007...)

John Hinderaker posts an interesting claim he got from a trusted source a copule weeks ago:
It’s a trap. They are going to Toomey-Manchin this thing: Announce a big compromise right before the vote, give no one any time to read it, and scare GOP moderates into voting for it.
Is that happening now?  Hinderaker thinks it is.  Is this another case of having to pass the bill so that we can find out what's in it?
REACTIONS: Senator Schumer sounds very happy about the amendment, and some Republicans seem convinced by press reports about it, but others aren't so swayed...FAIR: "The Corker-Hoeven amendment simply puts some very expensive lipstick on a pig. S.744 will deliver amnesty to the people who broke our laws, it will deliver huge increases in foreign labor for business interests, but it will do nothing to protect the interests and security of the American people."....Senator Cornyn is shocked and amazed....Ace remains very unimpressed...Peter Kirsanow: "Regardless of where you stand on immigration reform, the endless and multiplying efforts of our elected representatives to hoodwink the American people should infuriate you".....Mark Krikorian: "The Corker-Hoeven amendment is a sham, pure simple. Anyone who votes for it is announcing that he thinks the American people are gullible fools."

GETTING TOWARD CLOTURE: Ted Cruz has started to fight strongly against S. 744, sponsoring a petition against it....Orrin Hatch still hopes to support S. 744...An interesting whip list for votes on S. 744 is here...

THE WORKING CLASS: Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is assumed by some to be a guaranteed "yes" for S. 744.  Yet Sanders has a long-standing opposition to guest-worker programs.  As he said the other day, "I do not support a huge expansion in the guest worker program that will allow hundreds of thousands of entry-level guest workers to come into this country."  Well, that's exactly what S. 744 does, and so far no amendments have been passed stripping the guest-worker provisions from the bill.  I've been told by a source that Sanders is still waiting to see how the final bill looks before deciding whether to support it or not.  Will Senator Sanders stand up for his principles in the days ahead and really fight to get rid of the guest-worker program?  Will he support a bill that has such a plan in it?  (PS: Sessions argued on Thursday that S. 744 will "accelerate the decline" of the working class.)

ON THE FLOOR: One vote on Thursday: Cornyn's RESULTS amendment was tabled 54-43.  Pryor and Manchin were only Democrats in favor of this amendment.  Rubio split from the Gang of Eight to support it; perhaps he got a pass from Schumer on this amendment, Andrew Stiles suggests.

FOR FRIDAY: Look for the text of Corker-Hoeven.  Some more thoughts from  Sessions's office on Reid's possible strategy in the days ahead:
“Reid could systematically table all the remaining amendments that are pending, holding votes to table one at a time,” background provided by Sen. Sessions’ staff reads. “Then he could call up Corker-Hoeven. After debating the amendment, he could file cloture on it to end debate.  He could also block debate and immediately file cloture. Then, a vote would be taken on the amendment. After Corker-Hoeven passed, Reid could ‘fill the tree,’ which is a power he has to block consideration of any amendments (and one he’s used far more than his predecessor, Bill Frist). Reid could then file cloture on S. 744 as amended by Corker-Hoeven. Then, a vote on final passage would occur.  So the bill, in its current form with the exception of the addition of Corker-Hoeven, could be passed (if it had the votes) without any further opportunity given to senators to alter/improve it—by early next week, even."
Time will tell!

(Link to this issue here.)  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Bob Corker Had to Say about Amnesty in 2007

According to the Congressional Record, Senator Corker said on May 23, 2007,
 What I mean by that is this. There is a sense of fairness that we see many times on the floor that is not addressed by the fact that we have about 12 million people in this country today illegally. People see this bill as straight amnesty, where all of a sudden we are going to make it legal that if you have been here working, for however long, you become legal in this country by virtue of being here...
   It is that point, I think, that has divided the American people, the fact that this bill does not address the inequity of allowing those people to remain here. These are people who came here, obviously, to support their families, and we understand what the motivation is for many people to be here, but this bill does not address that inequity.    What I propose tonight and I am working with other Senators to hopefully make happen after we come back from recess, is to actually have a provision in this bill that treats people who are here illegally like those who wish to have a green card, like those who would be temporary workers in this bill. I would ask that other Senators work with me and others to create an amendment to this bill that actually would cause, over a reasonable amount of time, people who are working in this country to return to their home country and then come back through legal channels. I think that strikes at the very core of what so many Americans believe is so inappropriate about having illegal immigrants, illegal workers, automatically made legal.
   I think that is a central fallacy in this bill as it has been offered today. After many of these technical amendments are agreed to over the course of the next few days, and as we come back from recess, I look forward to working with other Senators to try to ensure that if this immigration bill passes, it passes in a way that meets the sense of fairness the American public believes this bill ought to have; that it addresses that inequity of people who jumped in front of the line and came here, being here illegally and yet being able to benefit without, during a reasonable period of time, returning home and coming back through legal channels, once we have the mechanisms in place to allow people to do that. I hope to have the opportunity to work with others in this body to make that happen. 
Senator Corker argued in 2007 that the "central fallacy" of the "comprehensive" bill of 2007 is that it allowed for "straight amnesty, where all of a sudden we are going to make it legal that if you have been here working, for however long, you become legal in this country by virtue of being here."  Doesn't S. 744 do that?  Doesn't Corker-Hoeven preserve the legalization-first approach of the Gang of Eight bill?

(In 2007, Sen. Corker seemed particularly to criticize the fact that the 2007 Senate bill did not require illegal immigrants to return to their native countries "and then come back through legal channels."  S. 744 doesn't require that, either.)

Daniel Horowitz also recalls what Corker had to say about "amnesty" in 2006.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Pundits Turn (A Certain Immigration Update)

A daily dose of immigration-related links collected by Fred Bauer
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The CBO's finding that S. 744 will not radically curtail illegal immigration has shifted the momentum of this debate a little bit.  Critics of the bill are privately saying that this report may have changed the dynamic.

Why might that be the case?  Over at The Daily Caller, I explore how the CBO's report suggests that the bill fails by the standards set for it by the Gang of 8:
At the outset of the Senate debate, the Gang of Eight members laid down their policy marker: this bill would radically reduce, if not outright end, illegal immigration. The CBO has now suggested that this bill would do nothing of the kind. The CBO argues that the legislation would allow millions more illegal immigrants to enter the shadows, paving the way for yet another attempt to fix a “broken immigration system” a decade from now.
CBO projections are far from perfect prognostications, but this report does pose a challenge to the Gang of Eight. If the findings are wrong, why are they wrong? If they are wrong, by how much would S. 744 actually reduce future illegal immigration? If they are right or the Gang of Eight cannot dispute the findings successfully, will those senators who pledged to back the legislation on the grounds that it would end illegal immigration step away from it?
Promises on immigration enforcement have been broken before. The experience of the 1986 amnesty convinced many Americans about the dangers of putting amnesty ahead of enforcement. This CBO report suggests that the Gang of Eight bill, like the 1986 amnesty, might not live up to its proponents’ promises.
This finding might make it harder for those Democrats and Republicans who ran on enforcement of immigration laws to back this bill.

Over at NRO, Yuval Levin raises some significant questions about the bill:
That projection isn’t an argument. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t proceed. Immigration is good for America, but we govern and shape it with laws for a reason: Like all things, it is good up to a point, and it is better in some forms than in others. Have we thought through the volume of immigration that would result from this legislation? Have we thought through its balance of skills? Should we not hear a case for doubling American immigration over the next decade before we go ahead and do it? Has anyone argued for that? To what problem would such a huge increase be a solution? Does anyone have the sense that this is what our immigration debate has been about, or even quite understand that this is what the bill would do?
When the Hart-Celler immigration reform was enacted in 1965, creating today’s immigration system, everyone focused on the shifting of visa categories to finally put an end to racist quotas, and few people predicted that the law would dramatically distort the legal immigration system in the direction of massive chain immigration. It seems to me something similar is going on here—because we are focused on the question of offering legal status to illegal immigrants, we may be missing what this bill will really amount to in practice and what will matter most about it.
In any case, I think yesterday’s CBO reports are very important. The projections they make about economic effects (although they acknowledge they are premised on evidence drawn from much smaller waves of immigration than the one they project) and fiscal effects should help proponents of the law. But the projections they make about illegal immigration should put an end to any notion that this law will address that problem, and the projections they make about overall immigration levels should lead us to think about how much and what sort of immigration would be best for the country.
Ramesh Ponnuru adds: "it looks as though the CBO has actually driven a stake through the heart of the Gang of Eight’s case"

Some GOP aides believe that the window is closing on S. 744:
“The fact is, Senator Rubio is bouncing around trying to find a path out,” a Republican staffer told the Washington Examiner. “The bill is indefensible — and he has all but admitted it by saying ‘it must be improved.’  So he saddled up with Cornyn to try to get cover — but now that doesn’t seem to be working either. Now there are more secret back room-deals being attempted — while Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer stiff-arm Senator Grassley and other Republicans who are trying to modify the bill on the floor.  The American people are just waking up to the reality of another 1000 page amnesty bill — and there is a long way to go in this debate.”
Rubio stayed optimistic about gathering Republican support. “I think you’ll see something, God willing, early next week so people can start to look at it. A bunch of senators have been working on it,” he told Morrissey. “A lot of Republicans want to be supportive of something, but need to be able to go back home and tell people that they have taken serious steps to make sure this never happens again.”
The idea of having to back a substantial change to the bill on such short notice.”How long have they been working on this bill?” another Republican Senate  aide said. “And they are going to surprise everyone with a brand new bill just DAYS before senators vote on it, before anyone can read it, score it, evaluate it?”

HANNITY SWITCHES: Sean Hannity has been a fairly consistent ally of Rubio's plan.  That's changed:
Talk-show host Sean Hannity, who made waves after the election by saying he was open to legalizing illegal immigrants, changed course Wednesday, saying that Sen. Marco Rubio and fellow Republicans who negotiated the Senate legalization bill got duped by Democrats.
Mr. Hannity said that the way the debate is shaping up, Mr. Rubio and his fellow three Republicans who worked on the bipartisan Gang of Eight have delivered a winning political issue to Democrats.
“I do believe that he had the best of intentions when he started working on this issue. But I also told him during interviews early on that I do not trust Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin,” Mr. Hannity said of Mr. Rubio.
“Democrats have a history of not being trustworthy. My prediction seems to have become a reality. Democrats are basically using this as a political issue, not for the sake of solving an important problem but to boost future election chances by making this a wedge issue for 2014,” he said.
Mr. Hannity said Tuesday’s analysis from the Congressional Budget Office showed the bill won’t end illegal immigration in the way backers had promised, and would actually add to the costs of the new health-care law, though it would lower overall federal budget deficits.
Is this a sign of more switches to come?  See Hannity's interview with Rubio here: Rubio says he voted against enforcement amendments (Thune, etc.) because they didn't go far enough.  If the Gang has lost Hannity....
Perhaps Reid is getting a bit jumpy: he might move to file cloture on Thursday: 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that if a significant amendment agreement is reached Thursday, he could file cloture on the immigration reform bill that same day and avoid weekend work by continuing votes next week.“We are going to finish this bill before we leave here for the July 4th recess. I hope we don’t have to work here Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Reid said Wednesday evening. “I’ve said before that I’d file cloture on the bill by Friday, Saturday, Sunday or even Monday. It looks like we might have to move that up a day and I might have to file cloture tomorrow.”

 What exactly the amendments are remains in limbo as of this writing.

This anxiety may partly be motivated by the fact that GOP support for this measure seems to be falling away.  Members of the Gang now seem to be conceding 70 votes as a very difficult goal.  McCain has suggested they might have in the low 60s.

Ted Cruz unleashes on S. 744:
He also denounced the idea that the bill successfully secured the border, but heightened the incentive to come to the United States illegally.
“We all know that the border security ain’t never gonna come, but the legalization happens immediately,” he said. “This Gang of Eight bill — if it passes — would increase illegal immigration.”
Cruz added that he believed that Sen. Harry Reid was nervous about the future of the bill.
“I think he’s starting to get nervous because the American people are waking up to the details of the bill,” he said.
Bernie Sanders is still complaining about guest-workers: "The Vermont independent's proposals include forbidding companies that have announced mass layoffs from hiring foreign guest workers; adding a fee to guest worker hires to fund a jobs program for low-income U.S. teens; and altering a cultural exchange visa program so that it no longer involves work for youths from overseas."  But will he propose any amendment to cut the size of the vast new guest-worker programs of S. 744?  If the senator is really concerned about guest workers, now is the time to act.

Rand Paul's "trust but verify" amendment is defeated (61-37 to kill the amendment)...he seems to have turned against bill...
Mike Lee's enforcement amendment is also defeated 39-59.
Mary Landrieu is upset about some amendment votes.
SPEAKING OF AMENDMENTS: Corker and Hoeven continue to work on some border-security amendment...some possible details here....

 ELSEWHERE....Maybe the Gang of Eight bill will not "settle" the immigration issue for many left-leaning activists....Drucker points out some things to keep an eye on...Heritage: Congress is trying to fool you...NJ poll: voters want fewer guest-workers in high-tech and construction fields....

Laura Ingraham raises questions about the effect of this bill on the working class in a conversation with Paul Ryan:
“The CBO report says that [the Gang of Eight] approach, which would allow in all these people, would drive wages down. How can Paul Ryan, the man behind the growth agenda, say that driving American wages down is a good thing over the next twelve years, for the middle class who is struggling in Wisconsin and beyond?”
 See here for Ryan's response.

(Link to this issue here.)