Politico had a big story this morning reporting that Republicans in the “Gang of Eight” who are negotiating a deal on immigration reform plan to move very quickly to define the proposal in the public mind before conservatives do it first.
To get a sense of what Republicans are up against, consider that Marco Rubio — a member of the Gang of Eight — is already getting hammered over the claim that the plan supposedly creates “Marco-phones.” The assertion, which is a play on the “Obama-phones” widely ruminated about on the right, is that the bill would grant taxpayer-funded cell phones to immigrants who enter the country on a work visa.
Rubio is working furiously to debunk the claim, issuing a detailed fact sheet pushing back on it, but it appears to live on. Details aside, this observation from Ed Kilgore gets at the larger story here:
I’m having trouble feeling bad for Rubio getting a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a Tea Party delusion.
I’d only add that this dynamic goes well beyond immigration. The regular care and feeding that more “responsible” Republican officials give to the right’s delusions are complicating the party’s efforts to moderate on other fronts, too.
On the debt ceiling, Republican officials won’t definitively rule out a standoff over it, and continue to hint that they may demand spending cuts that match the debt ceiling hike, even though they know full well they have already revealed that they are not prepared to allow default. This lack of clarity risks stoking a desire on the right for another epic confrontation over the debt limit, which in turn could make resolution harder and contribute to the sense that Republicans are stuck in governing-by-crisis mode.
Meanwhile, GOP officials — including Rubio himself — continue to keep alive the delusion that Obamacare will get repealed. Rubio recently signed on with a Ted Cruz measure that would make the continued funding of the government contingent on the repeal of Obamacare. The continued floating of repeal measures from GOP officials keeps alive the idea that one of these days Obamacare will finally get that grand reckoning the right is hoping for — which in turn encourages those officials who want to remain in good standing with the base to … keep pushing for Obamacare repeal. The effort to block or do away with Obamacare has failed in Congress, at the ballot box, and before the Supreme Court, and the continued push for repeal risks making the party look out of touch with reality.
Now it’s on to immigration. As Steve Benen remarks, the compromise is set to “get the full death panel treatment.” Yes, it is, but I’d also add that this, too, is a problem of Republicans’ own making: Recall that during the 2012 presidential primary, GOP voters were bombarded with all manner of lurid claims from the GOP presidential condenders about “self deportation” and the like, for months on end. As the debate over immigration heats up, it’ll be interesting to watch Republicans try to stuff this genie back into the bottle.