As Pema Levy points out in a post at Mother Jones today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the Senate’s equivalent of Steve King, and is just as much an anti-immigrant hardliner though with slightly less of a tendency for repeated gaffes.
The thing though, is that the Senate GOP leadership has just made Sessions the chair of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, a move that will very much come back to haunt them considering the GOP’s already-troubled position with Latino voters. As Pema Levy writes:
Sessions’ new prominence could prove a public relations problem for the GOP heading into the next presidential campaign. Less than two years ago, in the wake of a presidential election in which the Latino vote helped doomed Republican Mitt Romney’s White House ambitions, the party called for bipartisan immigration reform. Now, Senate Republicans have elevated reform’s biggest foe.
This week, the McCaul border bill was delayed, and Levy credits a lot of the opposition toward it to Sessions:
The first test of Sessions’ influence came this week in the debate over a border security measure sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House homeland security committee. This bill was supposed to be the kind of immigration legislation Republicans can get behind….
In opposing the McCaul border bill, conservative House members have cited Sessions position against it, and the senator can take credit for causing Boehner and GOPers who want to make progress on immigration a real headache. Score one point for Team Sessions.
And as we wrote this week, the failure of the McCaul bill is bad for the GOP. It means their right wing is in control, even though the party clearly doesn’t have an exit strategy re: executive action and the DHS funding bill. The GOP is letting Sessions lead the way, which is only going to lead to bad news for them in 2016 and beyond. As Levy concludes:
Sessions is prepping for an all-out war on Obama’s immigration executive actions, when Congress considers funding for the Department of Homeland Security in late February. Not all Republicans are looking forward to a battle royal over fully funding the government agency in charge of border security and various anti-terrorism efforts. But if Sessions is able to exploit this fight and yank the immigration debate to the right—against the wishes of many within the GOP establishment—Republicans will have no one to blame but themselves.