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GOP Excuses for Not Passing Immigration Reform Are Falling Away

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7/18 UPDATE: Here’s a data point for John Stanton: Tea Party groups are apparently upset at Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for voting to support the Senate immigration bill.  But they haven’t been able to find any primary contenders to challenge him.


All month, House Republicans have been dragging their feet on immigration reform, appearing unwilling to do anything to solve this decades-old problem rather than capitalizing on the Senate’s bipartisan move to legalize 11 million Americans without papers and put them on a path toward citizenship.

House GOPers have tried claiming that they can’t act on reform because they’ll face primary challenges and–preposterously–claimed that they don’t need to act on reform because they can get by with just white voters, thank you very much.  But two articles today further put both myths to rest.

The first is a piece from Buzzfeed’s John Stanton, entitled, “No, Congressman, You Probably Won’t Lose Your Job for Voting for Immigration Reform.”  As Stanton explains, there is a certain myth that Republicans who don’t toe a conservative enough line will be primaried out by harder-core true believers.  But there’s no evidence that such a thing will happen to those who support immigration–because election spenders like the Club for Growth aren’t interested in punishing Republicans over it:

“We don’t care about immigration reform,” said Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller with a chuckle, explaining his organization remains solely focused on “economic issues … [and] pro-growth policies.”

As for Heritage Action, the one major group that is involved in the immigration fight, they’re not expected to spend any money in the 2014 primary cycle…

The raw data, in fact, suggests that Republican primaries are rarely a major problem for incumbents in the House.

Since 2006, only nine Republicans have lost primary challenges in which they were not running against another sitting Republican. Over that period, dozens more members have retired or resigned, but aides and conservatives alike said only a few, such as former Rep. Geoff Davis, stepped aside rather than face a primary. For most, it was a simple question of fatigue, age, financial opportunity, or having been redistricted out of office.

And in those cases in which outside organizations became involved, even fewer actually were ousted.

In recent weeks, commentators and pollsters have blasted the idea that Republicans don’t need Latino voters because they can work on turning out more white voters.  Posts from Karl Rove, Ruy Teixeira, Michael Tomasky, and others have pointed out logical errors in the theory and criticized its short-sightedness.  But this week, writers like Stanford Professor Keith Humphreys and pollster Margie Omero remind us that killing reform is not what white  voters want either.

After all, polls consistently show supermajorities of all Americans supporting immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  As Omero further writes today–in a post called “What Do White Voters Want (On Immigration)?“:

Just like immigration doesn’t automatically move all Latinos, reforming immigration doesn’t immediately alienate “everyone else.” In the 2012 exit polls, about two-thirds of voters said they supported a pathway to citizenship. Pew/USA Todayrecently found half of conservative Republicans feel undocumented workers should have a way to stay legally. Pew also showed 70 percent of Republicans feel our economy would be improved by granting undocumented workers legal status. Most other recent national polls show clear majority support for a pathway to citizenship.

And it doesn’t seem Republican voters are buying into the belief that [passing reform] hurts their party. Pew /USA Today showed Republicans to be divided as to whether immigration reform “helps” their party in national elections or simply “doesn’t make a difference.” Fewer say it would hurt their party. And Pew also found Republicans and Democrats equally likely to say passing immigration reform to be “extremely” or “very” important (50 percent and 53 percent, respectively), while Gallup showed whites and Latinos equally likely to find reform extremely or very important (72 percent and 73 percent, respectively).

So it’s no surprise voters nationwide are rejecting Republican tactics on this issue. In Gallup‘s just-released poll, about half of voters overall — including a plurality of whites under 50, and 40 percent of whites over 50 — say they agree with Democrats’ policies on immigration, even when no specifics are given.

The conventional cop-outs for GOP inaction are falling away.  Will they soon realize that they must take action on immigration reform with citizenship?  Or will they keep coming up with more excuses?