Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) appearance on CNN yesterday morning probably won't help his burgeoning presidential ambitions, but at least on the narrow point about his party and immigration reform, the Republican senator raised
a fair point.
Gloria Borger noted that the GOP-led House has refused to act on immigration policy, and she asked Graham whether the lower chamber as a responsibility to legislate. His response was quite candid.
"Shame on us as Republicans. Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that it's national security, that's cultural and it's economic. The Senate has done this three times. [...] "I'm close to the people in the House, but I'm disappointed in my party. Are we still the party of self-deportation? Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out?"
Of course, if we treat that question as non-rhetorical, the answer is entirely unknown. Republicans may have been riding high after their big election wins a few weeks ago, but right now, President Obama has put immigration on the national front-burner and the GOP appears lost, confused, and at odds with one another.
Indeed, in recent days, everyone from Jeb Bush
to John Kasich
to Jeff Flake
has said the Republican Party can complain about Obama's efforts, but the GOP still needs to pursue policies of their own. At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued again
on Friday that the president hurt Republicans' feelings, so the likelihood of the GOP majority governing on the issue remains remote.
In case it's not obvious, it's simply impossible to take Boehner's line seriously. Republicans are outraged by executive actions, and to demonstrate their disgust, they'll refuse to pass legislation that would cancel and supersede the executive actions. Why? Because the president has proven himself to be a big meanie using the same powers previous presidents have relied on under nearly identical circumstances.
But just beyond the surface, there's a more glaring problem: Republicans are afraid to even try to govern because they haven't the foggiest idea what to do about immigration.
The lack of a unified response from the GOP risks further fracturing the party just as Republicans prepare to take over Capitol Hill and attempt to prove themselves a responsible governing majority. And Obama's nationwide tour pitching his plan threatens to blunt Republicans' momentum and messaging heading into a long holiday recess, exposing frustrations by both conservatives at a lack of direction on how to respond to Obama's moves and of party elders who worry the GOP's right flank will overreact to the immigration action with talk of impeachment and government shutdowns. Republicans, for now, have offered little other than rhetorical criticisms.... GOP leaders have declined to broadcast any plans as they take the temperature of rank-and-file Republicans, who range in ideology from hardliners agitating for a direct confrontation with Obama to deal-making centrists who fret a harsh GOP overreaction will make it impossible to make bipartisan progress on anything next year.
Given all of this, the party's apoplexy comes into sharper focus. Republicans' outrage is apparently real, but to assume it's all about the policymaking process is to look at developments with too narrow a focus -- the GOP isn't happy about progressive immigration measures and it's even less happy the president's governing has exacerbated tensions within the Republicans' ranks.