Some in GOP Won't Let Immigration Go

Washington Matters

Some in GOP Won't Let Immigration Go

I thought that with John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama all in basic agreement on immigration -- and with voters less than obsessed with it, the issue would fade in this year's campaigns. How naive of me.


Conservative Republicans aren't about to let immigration go, even though there's no evidence that it works as a campaign issue in more than a few border districts. The latest evidence of GOP persistence comes in the hatching of what somebody obviously think is a brilliant scheme to embarrass moderate and conservative Democrats.

Prevented from voting on a get-tough bill sponsored by one of those conservatives, Democrat Rep. Health Shuler of North Carolina, the Republicans are collecting names on a discharge petition -- that's Washington speak for bypassing procedure to get a floor vote. Although they don't have a prayer of collecting the needed majority of members' names, Republicans hope to put Democrats who agree with them on the spot. If they don't sign they can be accused of being inconsistent. But signing a discharge petition is  something members of either party almost never do because it is widely regarded as being disloyal to their leadership and the party as a whole. Even authors of legislation rarely sign petitions to discharge bills bottled up by their own leaders. At the same time, Senate Republicans have unveiled a package of get-tough measures that they will push in the Senate, though Democrats will likely keep most of them from ever coming to a vote.


However you feel about immigration, this is exactly the kind of partisan maneuvering and backbiting that voters are sick of, but some people in Washington don't seem to get the message. When voters say they want change, they mean they want Congress and the White House to work together on practical solutions to their problems, not play games to score points with voters.


The irony here is that the GOP conservatives may end up hurting more than just moderate Democrats. They may also hurt McCain. His staff has supposedly signed off on the move -- presumably part of his effort to unite the conservative base. But it won't help him with the moderates and independents, and it'll hurt a lot with Hispanics. Of course, McCain asked for this by abandoning his push for a comprehensive bill with a guest worker program to win conservative primary votes. He now says the U.S. must shore up its borders first and that he would vote against the bill he wrote and cosponsored a year ago.


But McCain may face a bigger threat from the middle than the right. The right has nowhere else to go in November, but moderate voters and independents are going to be key to his victory. Alan Abramowitz has an excellent analysis on Larry Sabato's Crystal ball web site on how badly a mass defection by GOP moderates  could hurt McCain. 


So the games go on...and no progress toward a solution is possible. And once again, Americans get to watch a dysfunctional Washington dysfunction.