President Obama spoke briefly yesterday, announcing the re-opening of the federal government, and sharing some thoughts on how to help the country get moving in the right direction again. Specifically, the president stressed the importance of immigration reform – four times.
The push came on the heels of similar remarks from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who said, “I look forward to the next venture, which is making sure we do immigration reform.”
As it turns out, congressional Republicans don’t quite see it that way.
CNN’s Dana Bash asked several House GOP lawmakers yesterday about the prospect for passing a reform bill. One sent back an email that read, “Hahahahaha.” Another said the odds of success are “zero.”
When I asked South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the “Gang of Eight” behind the bill, what the impasse and resolution meant for immigration reform, he chuckled, then said it didn’t make him optimistic, exactly. Yesterday, when asked by Breitbart.com whether immigration policy might return to the agenda, former House immigration reformer Raul Labrador did more then chuckle.
“Absolutely not,” said Labrador. “I think it would be crazy for the House leadership to enter into negotiations with him. He’s trying to destroy the Republican Party, not to get good policies. I don’t see how he would in good faith negotiate with us on immigration.”
It is, to be sure, a curious argument. A bipartisan group of senators crafted and approved a comprehensive immigration bill, which now enjoys the support of the American mainstream, business leaders, religious leaders, GOP strategists, and leaders from the Latino community. It’s a policy that secures the border, shrinks the deficit, and boosts economy growth. The White House considers the plan good policy and good politics for both sides.
But a prominent House Republican intends to help destroy the legislation because, he claims, Obama is “trying to destroy the Republican Party.” Presumably, then, that’s an outcome Republicans prefer to inflict on themselves?
Stepping back, here’s my question for congressional Republicans: what is it, exactly, you intend to run on in 2014? I don’t mean that in some kind of obnoxious, snarky way; I genuinely want to know.
I’m trying to imagine the message a year from now: “We shut down the government, we used the debt ceiling as a weapon, we killed immigration reform, we ignored efforts to reduce gun violence, we never even considered the possibility of a jobs bill, we tackled some culture-war bills that no one beyond our base cares about, we voted to take away Americans’ health care benefits 46 times, and we demanded unpopular cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for nothing. Two more years!”
After the Republican shutdowns in the mid-90s, GOP lawmakers were desperate to pass some big-ticket legislation so they’d have some accomplishments to run on. If immigration is suddenly no longer an option for Republicans, how do they intend to spend the next year? Going after contraception?
Ideally, elected officials would think first about what’s right for the country, then what produces the best political results. But even if we skip past the first step and overlook why immigration reform is sensible on substantive grounds, are GOP lawmakers convinced that another do-nothing Congress is in their own best interests?