Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R), who represents Arizona, issued a curious press release.
“I note that in his response to today’s Supreme Court ruling, President Obama called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I also note that the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill I helped draft in 2007 was killed – in part – by then-Senator Obama.”
Clearly, expectations for honesty are low when it comes to the politician who made “not intended to be a factual statement” famous, but even by Kyl’s low standards, this is unnerving.
First, Obama, as a U.S. senator in 2007, didn’t vote to kill comprehensive immigration reform; he voted for it. Kyl’s version of reality is the opposite of the one the rest of us live in.
Second, though Kyl bragged yesterday about the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill he “helped draft” five years ago, if we actually look back at the Senate record, we see that the Arizona Republican voted to filibuster the bill. Jon Kyl is falsely accusing Obama of doing what Jon Kyl actually did.
Maybe yesterday’s press release wasn’t intended to be a factual statement, either?
Kyl’s Arizona colleague, Sen. John McCain (R), meanwhile, had his own take on recent events yesterday, which was nearly as ridiculous.
Sen. John McCain says President Barack Obama is motivated by “political calculations” in supporting the repeal of Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
“In order for the president of the United States to be reelected, he has to have very solid support amongst the Hispanic community,” the Arizona Republican told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren, hours after the Supreme Court struck down three provisions of the law. “I cannot believe that political calculations are not a major part of this. Otherwise, he would have proposed comprehensive immigration reform back in 2009 when he was first president of the United States.”
Let’s unwrap this a bit, because it’s kind of hilarious.
For one thing, Obama supported comprehensive immigration reform “back in 2009,” but was a little busy cleaning up the catastrophic mess left behind by McCain’s buddy, George W. Bush. For another, even if Obama had pushed for comprehensive immigration reform “back in 2009,” McCain would have tried to kill it – as Rachel noted on the show last night, McCain announced his opposition to the immigration bill he helped write in 2008.
And finally, if we’re really going to talk about politicians making “political calculations” on immigration policy, let’s talk about John McCain. He is, after all, the guy who championed comprehensive immigration reform until he flip-flopped to make right-wing activists happy; he co-sponsored the DREAM Act until he flip-flopped to make right-wing activists happy; and he opposed building the “danged fence” until he flip-flopped to make right-wing activists happy.
And now McCain wants voters to think Obama is making “political calculations” on immigration? Sure, senator, tell us another one.
There is, however, a larger and more substantive point to all of this. Over the last few days, Republicans – not just Kyl and McCain, but other prominent officials throughout the party – have said President Obama’s new immigration policy short circuits any efforts at a comprehensive reform bill. Given that the GOP has opposed any and all efforts at a comprehensive reform bill over the last five years, the rhetoric is, to put it mildly, odd.
But perhaps it’s worth putting the oddities, contradictions, lies, and hypocritical nonsense aside. The New York Times had a very interesting item yesterday.
The elements of an overhaul are broadly agreed on: tougher border security and stronger enforcement of laws prohibiting the hiring of undocumented workers, looser rules on visas for highly skilled or educated immigrants, a guest-worker program for sectors like agriculture that are plagued by labor shortages, and some response to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Democratic leaders maintain that any changes must be done comprehensively. If business interests get what they want on educated immigrants and guest workers, for instance, Democrats fear that a key Republican constituency will be lost when it comes to less popular measures, like providing some path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Most Republicans say they want to toughen border security first, and they refuse to move forward with other measures until they are satisfied that the borders are all but sealed.
But that stalemate may be weakening. Last month, four senators – two Democrats and two Republicans – introduced legislation to overhaul the rules on visas for highly skilled workers. Both Democrats, Mark Warner of Virginia and Chris Coons of Delaware, said they were prepared to move forward without a comprehensive immigration effort.
Republicans have spent a week talking about how awful it is that Obama didn’t push comprehensive immigration reform sooner. Well, it’s not too late. If GOP officials are serious and sincere about getting something done, they can step up right now, and put their legislation where their mouth is.