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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.This finding might make it harder for those Democrats and Republicans who ran on enforcement of immigration laws to back this bill.
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.
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?Ramesh Ponnuru adds: "it looks as though the CBO has actually driven a stake through the heart of the Gang of Eight’s case"
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.
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.
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.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.
“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.
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.)