It’s not often that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal editorial boards agree on something, but today the two papers agree that the House GOP votes on immigration this week were foolish and shortsighted. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times, entitled “Congress, Unhinged on Immigration,” pointing out that people continue to suffer while Congress did nothing. Now, it’s President Obama’s turn to act:
As Congress takes the rest of the summer off, there may be no two happier House Republicans than Steve King and Michele Bachmann, charter members of the “hell no” caucus that resolutely blocks all efforts at sensible immigration reform. The Senate’s attempt to address the border crisis, meanwhile, is also dead — filibustered by Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who engineered the House revolt, was exultant. Nothing will happen there until September, if then.
Meanwhile, the border crisis is still a crisis and people are suffering. The Border Patrol and refugee programs will run short of money for aiding and processing traumatized children. Immigration courts will still be overloaded, due process will continue to be shortchanged or denied. Because House Republicans killed a comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate more than a year ago, the larger immigration system, choked by obsolete laws, backlogs and bureaucratic breakdowns, still awaits repairs.
Eleven million people are still living outside the law with no way to legalize their status. Farmers and other business owners who depend on immigrant labor are still looking to Congress to bring order and efficiency to the system. They have been waiting for at least a decade. They will have to wait some more.
Congressional nihilism has created a vacuum. Now it’s President Obama’s job to fill it, to keep his promise to end the border crisis and find ways to redirect immigration enforcement and protect possibly millions of families from unjust deportation. Of course, regardless of what he does, the system will still be marked by chaos and pain. And the hard-liners will scream at any action he takes.
Having spent the summer howling about a catastrophe at the border, Republicans are now congratulating themselves for refusing to solve it.
(Speaking of President Obama taking executive action, here’s Dana Milbank at the Washington Post pointing out that the GOP’s anti-DACA vote this week actually underscored the fact that Obama has a right to take such actions):
But in proposing such legislation (which was pulled from the floor Thursday but then approved Friday night) Republicans implicitly acknowledged that Obama has such power now. Therefore, until both chambers of Congress can pass such a law by veto-proof margins, Obama retains the power. This is probably why House Republicans, just two weeks earlier, scoffed at the suggestion that they pass this sort of legislation when the idea came up before the Rules Committee.
Below is the WSJ’s piece, “The GOP’s border spectacle: the party melts down one more time over immigration,” arguing that President Obama and the Democrats haven’t been stellar on immigration reform, deportations, and the handling of children fleeing violence either. But it’s the GOP’s ultra-extreme actions that have stolen the show:
Republicans should be heading toward a November election victory, perhaps even a big one, adding to their House majority and maybe picking up the six or more seats necessary to control the Senate. Yet never underestimate their ability to save the day for Democrats, not least by showcasing the GOP’s immigration neuralgia.
The House GOP looked ready Friday to pass a bill to address the influx of children over the Southwest border, though not before providing another spectacle of internal disarray. The bill should have been a moment to redirect attention to President Obama’s cynical handling of the border problem and to the Democratic Party’s immigration divisions. Instead the GOP again gave the country the impression that its highest policy priority is to deport as many children as rapidly as possible back from wherever they came.
Earlier this week Speaker John Boehnerhad his caucus lined up to pass a modest bill that would have provided the Obama Administration with $659 million to deal with the border influx, while tweaking a provision in a 2008 law that even President Obama has said has encouraged the flood of unaccompanied minors to the U.S. This would have allowed Republicans to return home for the August recess saying they had voted to address the border problem and put pressure on the White House and Senate Democrats to act.
Instead, the GOP’s Deportation Caucus—led by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions andTed Cruz of Texas—lobbied House conservatives to resist any immigration compromise and pick a fight with Mr. Boehner. The dissenters demanded an array of policy changes, most notably new restrictions on the President’s executive order allowing some undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children to remain in the country.
Readers may recall that the last Republican in an election year to support deporting immigrant children brought here through no fault of their own was Mitt Romney. A splendid voter attraction that was. “The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop Obama’s amnesty,” declared Mr. Cruz, as he rallied House GOP members to vote against the bill.
Iowa’s Steve King and Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann were only too happy to follow the Senators into this cul de sac. And by Thursday evening the Republican caucus disintegrated into a screaming match on the floor in full view of the national media. Our sources say that nearly the entire Alabama delegation defected (thanks to Mr. Sessions) as did numerous participants at a Wednesday huddle held in Mr. Cruz’s office. House leaders had little choice but to pull the bill.
The result was to kill a solution to the border issue that Republicans have been declaring is a “crisis” that demands action. It also distracted attention from the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid couldn’t deliver on the President’s border request.
Mr. Reid knows that Senate Democrats are also split on immigration—between liberals who want to use the border bill to loosen immigration restrictions and Senators running for re-election who want to vote with the GOP. The latter include Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan. As usual, Mr. Reid refused to allow any amendments on his $2.7 billion border bill, dooming it so he could blame Republicans for the failure.
This Democratic use of border children as midterm-election pawns should be the story, but instead the Deportation Republicans played into Mr. Obama’s hands. Right on cue, the President held a press event on Friday at the White House that tatooed the GOP for refusing to solve the problem they claim is a crisis. The truth is that Mr. Obama doesn’t even care if the border bill passes. What he really wants is the immigration issue to bash Republicans and drive Hispanic and other minority turnout in states like Colorado that could determine Senate control.
House Republicans may have scrambled enough on Friday to save themselves from a total meltdown. But this latest immigration debacle won’t help the party’s image, which is still recovering from the government shutdown debacle of 2011. A party whose preoccupation is deporting children is going to alienate many conservatives, never mind minority voters.
Also check out this piece from Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine, “House Republicans Want President Hillary Clinton“:
Viewed from the standpoint of a year or even six months ago, Friday night’s House vote to deport some half-million immigrants who arrived illegally in the United States as children would have been unthinkable. After the 2012 election, an official Republican postmortem urged the party to embrace comprehensive immigration reform. Republicans in both chambers followed through on this advice. No less orthodox a figure than Paul Ryan toured around Chicago with Democrat Luis Gutierrez, where he was greeted enthusiastically by a mariachi band….
The House bill stands no chance of being enacted into law. Indeed, the sheer political illogic of the maneuver is baffling. House Republicans were facing a medium-sized debacle caused by their failure to pass any border security bill. This left them with the prospect of going into August recess deprived of a decent talking point.
The cure they settled upon is a thousand times worse than the disease. A party that began the Congressional term hoping to move left from Mitt Romney’s immigration stance has instead moved toward Michele Bachmann’s. (Bachmann — who, along with Steve King, helped draft the House bill — pronounces herself thrilled.) The party’s new dogma will potentially entangle its next nominee in an even less humane debate than the one that ensnared Romney. At the very least, it has put 216 House Republicans, many of whom will one day seek higher office, on record for a policy most Latino voters consider disqualifying. The aye votes include potential 2016 presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who is not likely to be greeted by friendly mariachi bands any time soon.
It is understandable that the party’s Congressional wing, based mostly in safe, deep-red districts, has failed to craft a national strategy for its 2016 candidate. But the House’s course of action has fallen well below “unhelpful” and instead verges on outright sabotage. How do they think this is going to work out for them?