March 11, 2008

Another Great Issue for McCain to Seize From the Left

Hatched by Dafydd

If there is any issue that epitomizes John McCain's dispute with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, it would be immigration policy. While they differ over several other issues -- notably the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold, and the putative "Gang of 14," which prevented the GOP from enacting the Byrd option in the Senate to rule it against Senate rules to filibuster judicial nominees -- it is immigation over which the Republican Party split the most widely and violently. And certainly it is immigration that many consider to be the "third rail" of the party... thus the one McCain should most steer clear of, right?

Wrong. In fact, I believe that John McCain should grab the elephant by the tail and look the facts in the face: He should jump into the current immigration donnybrook in Congress with both feet and with fists swinging... because this time, he will be squarely on the side of conservatives; and parachuting in to help the conservatives enact a border-security bill is exactly what McCain needs to be doing right now.

It all started when several moderate Democrats in both House and Senate and one Republican senator introduced a "get tough" bill on immigration and border enforcement. It included a big increase in the Border Patrol (8,000 new agents), more money for building the fence, and most especially, a major crackdown on employers who hire illegal aliens.

The Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act was introduced in November 2007 by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC, not yet rated) in the House, and by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AK, 75%), Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 65%) and David Vitter (R-LA, 92%) in the Senate. Nearly all Republicans -- from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) on the left to Reps. Tom Tancredo (R-CO, 92%) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA, 94%) on the right -- signed aboard the act, along with 48 Democrats in the House and three in the Senate. Many anti-illegal immigation groups applauded the bill, led by NumbersUSA, who called it "enforcement by attrition" for its strict, new immigration-status reporting requirements for business.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a floor vote...

Despite clear majority support in both House and Senate, the Democratic leadership under Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) -- stop me if you've heard this before -- threw a fit and vowed to bury the bill, squashing the revolt of the moderates like stomping on a banana slug. And bury it they did, refusing to bring it up even for discussion, let alone a vote.

For three months, it languished in committee hell. But now, Republicans are insisting that the Democratic leadership finally allow a vote on the Democratic-written border-enforcement bill... and supporters of SAVE say they have the votes to force it to the floor via a House discharge petition, a rarely used process whereby a majority of Congress (218 representatives) can vote to "discharge" a bill from consideration by a committee, whose chair is simply sitting on it, and bring it to the floor of the House for debate and vote:

Leaders are expected as early as Tuesday to use a parliamentary tactic that would eventually force a vote on the measure if 218 lawmakers - a majority of the House - demand it. Republicans are pressuring Democratic backers of the measure - including several first-termers and dozens from swing districts, all facing tough re-election fights - to defy their leaders and sign the petition.

"Lots of Republicans and lots of Democrats would like to see something done," Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the No. 2 whip, said Friday.

The House Republican leadership filed the petition today, and all Republicans are expected to sign it; they need about twenty Democrats to sign as well. With 48 Democrats signed aboard as of November, it looks good for being discharged and floored.

Republicans in the Senate are also trying to force Reid to bring it up there... though its fate there is less certain; liberal Democrats can filibuster it, even if moderate Democrats support it. Reid can lose up to ten Democrats and still prevent the SAVE Act from being considered.

But as a political issue, there is nothing Democrats can do to stop it entering the campaign. And enter it John McCain should -- with hobnailed boots!

Oddly even the liberals want McCain to join the fray... but on their side, not the Republican side. I think they're nuts and don't understand McCain at all; but they demand that he speak out against the Republican push to enact the border-security bills in the House and Senate:

Democrats are trying to turn the tables, hoping that Republicans' efforts to push get-tough immigration measures will hurt McCain with Hispanic voters and independents, two groups that have supported him in the past.

In a letter to McCain last week, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., called on the Arizonan to reject the GOP leaders' plans, calling them "draconian and divisive."

"Such a rejection will let this nation's 44 million Latinos know that demonizing them for political purposes will not be tolerated and that the more hateful rhetoric in the immigration debate has no place in our country's civic discourse," Menendez wrote.

Note that suggesting that illegal immigrants shouldn't be allowed into the country and that employers shouldn't employ them is now dubbed demonic hate speech. (I think Sen. Menendez (D-NJ, 90%) is auditioning for a leadership position -- in La Raza.)

What John McCain really ought to do is precisely the opposite of what Democrats demand, shockingly enough; he should jump into the fight but add his voice to those Senate colleagues and fellow congressmen in the House of Representatives, calling for a vote on the SAVE Act.

And it wouldn't be a flip-flop, either. Despite the angry denunciations of McCain by conservatives, he has never favored "open borders" or "immigration for all."

McCain supported comprehensive reform that included border-security measires, and it's fair to say he didn't think much of the border security fence. But when his bill died in 2006, he accepted the verdict of the people: He stated in no uncertain terms that henceforth, he would push for a more secure border first; and only after the stick was enacted would he return to the carrots of the bill.

This was widely seen by Republicans as McCain admitting his comprehensive approach had failed, and that he was joining the "enforcement first" ranks as the only route to immigration reform and regularization. While I still support a comprehensive bill, I understand why McCain -- who must, at the end of the day, actually get something enacted after all -- would give up on comprehensive and go for a one-two approach, security then regularization.

In any event, that was long before the presidential campaign really kicked off; through all of 2007 and into 2008, McCain has pushed to secure the border first, then address the other issues surrounding illegal immigration last. Thus, he already took his lumps on the issue and has come round... not in a stealthy way, but by openly admitting his mistake. I find that rather refreshing in a politician.

Here is what John McCain needs to say on the floor of the Senate to turn this entire issue from being a net negative for him to being a huge positive... in my never very humble (but generally correct) opinion:

My friends, I said before that I got the message sent by the American people; got it loud and clear. I said I wouldn't support bringing up the issue of regularization again until after we had first enacted real border enforcement and security. That's what I said, and that's exactly what I mean to do.

So for that very reason, let's get a vote, a straight up or down vote, on the SAVE Act. Because I think it will pass, and pass with a bipartisan majority in both chambers; and it's time for this train to start moving. Once that is done, and we have a bill to toughen border enforcement, make sure a real, physical wall gets built, and hold employers to the highest standard of making sure their workers are legally allowed to work... then and only then will it be time to come back to the other side of the issue. And I don't just mean just regularization of those already here, but also real reform of the whole system of legal immigration.

We must welcome with open arms those immigrants who come here because they love America, which is the great majority of them... but keep out those very few who try to come here not out of love of liberty, but out of greed, envy, hatred, or to commit sectarian violence and terrorism.

Let's secure the border first; let's have this vote and pass this bill! Then we can turn to the other matters, and I know my fellow conservatives will live up to their word and allow a vote on a path to citizenship and a comprehensive reform of the legal immigration system in this great country.

I think this would delight conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats alike; and most particularly, it would excite independents, who really want to see a bipartisan solution to intractable problems, such as sealing (to the extent possible in a free country) our porous borders.

And most important, it would be one more opportunity for McCain to poke a finger in the eye of the Überleft; I'm certain that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama totally oppose the Pryor-Landrieu-Vitters bill in the Senate... though it's unclear whether Obama can find any voting button on his Senate console except "Present."

If McCain jumps on this issue, it would be the second excellent domestic issue for him to capture this month. But on the other hand, I still haven't heard him chime in on the earmarks issue yet; so he'd better get his Asterix in gear. Time and presidential campaigns wait for no man.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 11, 2008, at the time of 6:44 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Heh.. that would be fun to see. I just wonder how many of those 48 Democrats who signed on to the Bill would actually VOTE for it. Right now they can claim to be 'tough on the issue' by signing on, yet they can still actually vote against it claiming it was changed or something. Then they could claim that they were 'against the hatred' or whatever catch-phrase they need.

My big fear for this election cycle would be if Barack Obama decided to get 'tough' on immigration. He doesn't rely on the Hispanic Vote, so he could chance angering their representatives, and he could siphon a whole bunch of moderate voters to his side with that issue in his portfolio. So far there has been absolutely no sign of it, but the only candidate right now who would be HURT by taking a strong stand would be Hillary.

McCain could even claim that he's just trying to enforce the agreement that we already had when they voted to build the fence before the Congress voted to defund most of it. It would be a very smart move...

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2008 1:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/12/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2008 8:14 AM

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