Friday, June 29, 2007

Immigrant Bill Dies in Senate; Defeat for Bush

So say the NY Times’ crack headline writers. For once, I’m irritated by a headline that reads “Defeat for Bush.” It is nowhere near the most salient aspect of this sorry event.

Senator David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican who helped lead opposition to the bill, said: “The proponents did not get even a simple majority. The message is crystal clear. The American people want us to start with enforcement at the border and at the workplace and don’t want promises. They want action. They want results. They want proof, because they’ve heard all the promises before.”

. . .

Mr. Bush, in Rhode Island for a visit to the Naval War College, said: “Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people, and Congress’s failure to act on it is a disappointment. A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn’t find common ground. It didn’t work.”

I feel that, given the president's recent battles over Iraq and DOJ misdeeds, “Congress” here is likely code for "Democrats"—however, the bill’s failure was primarily Republican driven.

Representative Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, said: “The Senate vote effectively kills comprehensive immigration reform for this Congress. It’s a vote for the status quo, which most Americans are not satisfied with.”

Thank you, Zoe!

Opponents and some supporters said Senate leaders had made a mistake in taking the bill directly to the floor without hearings or review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Right, it was a big mistake not to let Senators Cornyn and Sessions rip the bill to shreds in committee. Ever eager to falsely lay blame equally, the Times continues:

Not just conservatives voiced reservations. Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine who is running for re-election, said: “I just don’t think the bill struck the right balance. People were troubled by the proposed solution for the 12 million people here illegally. We did not get that part right.”

Now Senator Collins is a liberal? Is she voting with Harry Reid these days? Apparently not on this bill.

The “right balance” was always a chimera. Restrictionists, pro-immigrant groups, and business have radically different visions of what would constitute a good bill, but all of them must sign on for any bill to pass. Or else business must decide that its financial interests (cheap labor) outweigh its political interests (sucking at Uncle Sam's bounteous teat) and join with immigrant groups to overpower the restrictionists. This might become a more realistic possibility once the long-term decline of the GOP becomes more apparent. A magic bill that would satisfy all three groups is a Broderian fantasy that, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, most sentient beings should grow out of well before adolescence.

But Senator Harkin said, “The bill, as a whole, has evolved into an unworkable mess, and I cannot support it.”

I could say the same thing about the government.

But restrictionists are thrilled about this watershed victory—in the style of the Church’s victory over Galileo or Hoover’s victory over Alfred Smith—for the GOP:

Opponents of the bill were elated.

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said: “The American people won today. They care enough for their country to get mad and to fight for it. Americans made phone calls and sent letters and convinced the Senate to stop this bill.”

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, a leading opponent of the bill, said talk radio was “a big factor” in derailing it.

Supporters of the bill wanted to pass it quickly, “before Rush Limbaugh could tell the American people what was in it,” Mr. Sessions said.

If you put it that way, I’m elated, too. Not really elated so much as bitter and despondent, but I guess I'm desperate for a silver lining. The restrictionists who reacted so vigorously to the “threat” of comprehensive reform have sealed the fate of the GOP for the next generation. They have done for the Latino vote what their predecessors did for the black vote—made it reliably Democratic for the foreseeable future. Once again, the calm wisdom and foresight of Malkin, Limbaugh, and O’Reilly will pay dividends for years to come.

And for all the Democrats’ recent and historic failures on foreign policy, they are clearly on balance the party that gives a shit about immigrants. The GOP just doesn’t. As Steve Benen points out, outliers aside, this is a fairly clearcut partisan issue:

[L]et's keep in mind that nearly 70% of the Senate Democratic caucus backed the legislation this morning, whereas 75% of the Senate GOP caucus voted to block the bill.
And back to the Times article:

Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights group, predicted that “the growing and increasingly energized Latino electorate” would hold lawmakers accountable for failing to pass a comprehensive bill.

Somewhere dark and quiet, Karl Rove curses under his breath.

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