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On Immigration, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne and Jonathan Capehart Remind Us Who Really Poisoned the Well

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As we wait for President Obama to announce his plans for executive action on immigration, anti-immigrant Republicans are in full battle mode. They are spitting out talking points designed to undermine the President — without taking any responsibility for their own failures on the issue. Some pundits still seem to think bipartisanship is possible — because some Republicans say so. But anyone who has paid attention to the issue closely knows that the anti-immigrant wing of the GOP, led by the likes of Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (R-AL), sets the GOP’s immigration agenda.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne is not having it. He demolishes the idea that there’s been any bipartisanship on this issue. Unlike many, Dionne isn’t pretending:

On immigration, Boehner has lost all credibility to claim he wants to act in a bipartisan way. In his heart of hearts, might he like to pass a bill? Sure. But the speaker’s heart is not what’s at stake here. A willingness to take heat from the right wing of his caucus to pass a bill is what matters. And this is something he has showed, again and again, that he just won’t do.

On June 27, 2013, by a genuinely bipartisan vote of 68 to 32, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform. Boehner kept sending signals that he wanted to act. So Obama waited. And waited. And waited. And nothing happened.

After an election in which so many Republican candidates took a hard line on immigration, can anyone really believe that the House (or, for that matter, the new Republican Senate) will be eager to act? In the meantime, Obama, having promised executive orders to solve at least part of the problem, held back to try to help incumbent Democratic Senate candidates in red states. A lot of good that did.

By taking action now, Obama could even change the Republican calculus. Instead of burying a bill through countless delays, Republicans will have to respond to concrete decisions that could help actual human beings —perhaps as many as 6 million undocumented immigrants — and also a tech industry that wants visas for the highly skilled.

And the notion that Obama is spoiling a moment of exquisitely nonpartisan opportunity in Washington is laughable. Did anyone notice incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s victory speech on election night when he spoke as if the election weren’t over? “What the current crowd in Washington is offering is making us weaker, both at home and abroad,” he said, adding that Obama and the Democrats regularly “blamed somebody else when their policies didn’t work out.”

These are key lines from Dionne. Stop pretending:

McConnell is free to say whatever he wants. But please, let’s not pretend that it is Obama who is poisoning anybody’s well. Ditto for Boehner.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget that the last votes taken in the House and Senate, pushed by King and Sessions (among others), were to deport DREAMers.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, piles on with this cogent analysis:

The president who had to deal with the legitimacy-corroding and racist birther lie with nary a peep from grown-ups in the Republican Party is the one who is poisoning the well. The president who had to deal with a party that had it in for him since before Day One of his first term by plotting to block his every move for short-term political advantage is the one who is poisoning the well. The president who bent over backwards to give Republicans the time and space to move on immigration is the one who is poisoning the well. Nonsense.

The introduction of a new report from American Bridge about Obama’s forthcoming executive action succinctly details what the president did over the course of a year to allow House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to move on the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes in June 2013.

As the year-long negotiations progressed, Speaker Boehner needed political cover to maneuver within his party, prompting President Obama to continue to compromise in pursuit of House support for the already-passed bipartisan Senate immigration bill:

1) No public criticism of Republicans members on immigration policy

2) No trips in 2013 to battleground states with large Hispanic populations

3) Back piecemeal reforms rather than one big bill overhauling immigration policy

4) Defer executive action until after the summer

If congressional Republicans don’t want Obama to take action on immigration, they should move on the comprehensive immigration reform bill sitting in the House. In the meantime, as I’ve written before, if the president is going to make people mad, he might as well do it to help people and let the GOP figure out what to do with the poisoned chalice of their own making.