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A POPULIST UPRISING?
Last week's Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" Conference saw a clash between the establishment and insurgent voices on the right, the latter emphasizing themes of economic uplift for the average American. This approach to economic issues could have significant implications for the immigration debate in the Senate and the House. Rick Santorum argued that the Republican convention of 2012 mishandled President Obama's infamous "you didn't build that" comment:
“One after another, they talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single —factory worker went out there,” Santorum told a few hundred conservative activists at an “after-hours session” of the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”As Katrina Trinko reported, Sarah Palin's attacks upon the Senate bill at this conference also emphasized the economic:
“I say this as someone who’s kind of fertile herself,” the mother of five told attendees at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference today. “I don’t think that’s where we want to go in deciding how will we incentivize the hard-working responsible families who want to . . . follow the law and become Americans versus those whose very first act on our soil is to break the law. “
During his speech at the same event on Friday, Bush had said that “immigrants are more fertile,” and noted that the United States was not replacing its population quickly enough.
Palin also derided the Gang of Eight’s proposal. “Let’s not kid ourselves in believing that we can rebuild our majority, by the way,” she urged, “by passing a pandering, rewarding-the-rule-breakers, still-no-border-security, special-interests-ridden amnesty bill.”
So Palin says it's amnesty (her full speech is available here). It's Palin vs. Ryan---Republican VP candidate vs. Republican VP candidate---on whether or not this is "amnesty."
Jeff Sessions escalates his criticism of the immigration bill in a statement released on Sunday:
When the Gang of Eight first announced their immigration bill they declared it was the toughest enforcement plan in history. They declared enforcement would come before legalization. And they declared that anyone who suggested otherwise didn’t know what they were talking about.Now the bill has been reviewed and there can be no dispute: it weakens current law, undermines future enforcement and puts amnesty—not enforcement—first. So new promises of amendment ‘fixes’ to save the bill should be viewed with great skepticism: every time, on every issue, the promises have not matched with reality. They promised back taxes—but the requirement isn’t there; they promised tight restrictions on welfare benefits—but state and local benefits, as well as tax credits, will be available immediately and federal welfare access is granted to millions of illegal immigrants starting in five years; they promised to protect workers—but this bill would devastate workers by tripling the number of legal immigrants over the next decade and doubling the number of guest workers.No small cosmetic fix can save this bill, with so many provisions clearly authored by special interests whose chief desires are lower wages and amnesty—rather than a lawful, rational system of immigration.
Sessions also seems to be hitting that economic theme in indicting that desire for "lower wages."
Will these economic criticisms make any headway on the Senate floor? Is Bernie Sanders listening? Are Republican economic reformers?
(PS: Edward Lazear of Stanford/Hoover argues that the labor market remains "stuck in the mud." Do dwindling employment prospects strengthen the case for guest-workers?)
(PPS: What are we supposed to make of a Rubio staffer's statement that "There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it...There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly." What else can't Rubio's staff discuss publicly? The quote comes from Ryan Lizza's new New Yorker story on the immigration bill, featured in Playbook. Via Rich Lowry, Rubio's people are already pushing back against this quote---but not denying that it was said.)
ON THE SUNDAY SHOWS...Rubio: Immigration bill nearly "perfect"...Graham: GOP in a "demographic death spiral"....Gingrich: Yes, GOP is going to support "path to citizenship"...Will: "And it comes down to the killer Bs, benefits and borders. If you don't secure the borders, you're not going to pass either house."....
THE WEEK AHEAD
Ramsey Cox draws attention to six Senate amendments worth keeping an eye on:
- The RESULTS amendment
- Same-sex couples amendment
- Rubio’s English language amendment
- ‘Trust but Verify’
- Hatch amendments
- Building a Fence
Senator Cornyn's RESULTS amendment seems a big one to watch. It could give cover to numerous Republicans (such as Kirk) to vote in favor of the Gang's bill. Heritage Action has slammed this amendment ("it should be called 'NO-RESULTS' because it fails to solve the enforcement problems in the underlying bill") and has announced it would record this vote on its legislative scorecard. (Mickey Kaus isn't very optimistic about RESULTS, either.)
This week, keep an eye out for immigration bills from the House, too. The Hill reports:
The Judiciary panel will attempt to send two proposals to the chamber floor. The first, which is designed to bolster the enforcement of immigration laws in the nation's interior, will be marked up Tuesday; the second, which relates to the guest-worker program catering to the nation's agriculture industry, will follow....
At the same time, the bipartisan group of House lawmakers negotiating a comprehensive reform package are struggling to finalize a deal. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), one member of that group, predicted Tuesday that an agreement is imminent, but Rep. Raúl Labrador's (R-Idaho) decision to leave the group earlier in the month has only highlighted the difficulty of crafting a proposal that can pass through the divided House.
WSJ notes some possible sway-able votes, including Johanns (R-NE), Heller (R-NV), Baucus (D-MT), and Sanders (I-VT).
Late last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that he would debate anyone who argued that the Senate immigration bill is amnesty. The head of Heritage Action has replied to that challenge: "If the Gang of Eight’s bill becomes law, individuals who complied with the law – left the country when their visa expired, are still waiting in line, etc – will not be eligible for RPI status. Only those in the country illegally will be eligible to apply for a status that allows them to, almost immediately, live and work in the country. Not only will illegal immigrants have their slates wiped clean, they will receive a near-immediate benefit as a result of their illegal status." More thoughts on the meaning of "amnesty" from Heritage Action here.
(Link to this issue here.)