‘The party has to be bigger than Utah and South Carolina’


To listen to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and many of his allies, the Republican Party does not need to fear political fallout from killing comprehensive immigration reform – they’ll just blame Democrats for including measures like a pathway to citizenship, which drove GOP lawmakers away.

On “Fox News Sunday” yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pointed in a very different direction.

For those who can’t watch clips online, Graham delivered this nice little mini-speech on the air:

“As to the Republican Party, here is my firm belief: America is not divided on this, Mike. Seventy percent of Americans including Republicans support an earned-pathway to citizenship over a 13 year period where you get in the back of the line, learn the language and pay a fine. So to the Republican Party: this is a chance to improve our economy, reduce the deficit by $890 billion to get border security you will never see in your lifetime, to regain our sovereignty.

“And if it fails and we are blamed for its failure our party is in trouble with Hispanics, not because we are conservative, but because of the rhetoric and the way we’ve handled this issue. I want to get reattached to the Hispanic community, to sell conservatism, pass comprehensive immigration reform and grow this party. The party has to be bigger than Utah and South Carolina. The Hispanic community is very close to our values but we have driven them away over this issue. Let’s fix this problem for the good of the country and the good of the party. And this bill does that, my friend.”

I don’t agree with Graham on much, but in this case, the Gang of Eight member’s assessment sounds pretty persuasive. There can be no doubt that if Republicans kill immigration reform – again – efforts to blame Democrats will be dismissed as ridiculous.

Of course, it’s hardly clear that opponents will prevail, and there’s ample evidence that reform legislative is on track in the Senate.

Indeed, The Hill reported that proponents “are marching toward 70 votes, a target intended to put maximum pressure on the House to act.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who’s gone back and forth on the issue, indicated yesterday that he will not vote for reform, but Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who opposed a comprehensive bill in 2007, indicated she’s likely to support the bipartisan bill this year.

With Landrieu facing a difficult re-election bid in a red state next year, her support for the bill helps reinforce the belief that the winds are at reform proponents’ backs.

There are a handful of other progressive members of the Senate Democratic caucus who fear the bill is already too conservative, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but the New York Times noted, “[M]ost Democrats concede that barring an abrupt shift in the political climate, they will almost certainly fall in line behind their leaders.”

The various head counts that are being circulated on the Hill offer competing vote totals, but as a final vote nears, 70 is no longer considered unrealistic.

Lindsey Graham

'The party has to be bigger than Utah and South Carolina'