Could the political war over the current crisis of young migrants at the border become a big issue in the hard-fought Senate races? Here’s one place to look for a clue: The Kentucky Senate contest, where the candidates are now skirmishing over it.
Mitch McConnell’s operatives are drawing attention to a local newscast showing Dem candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes speaking to Kentucky reporters. Grimes is asked whether she supports Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to address the crisis with expedited removals and more care for migrating children. She sidesteps that question, but hits McConnell for failing to support broader reform, and reiterates that she’s “for securing our borders and making sure that we give an earned pathway to citizenship.”
McConnell’s team is pillorying her for dodging the question, and it seems clear she’ll need a better answer to it. But if this battle continues, you may see McConnell dodging another consequential question at the core of this issue.
McConnell has criticized Obama’s funding request, arguing that it constitutes giving him a “blank check” (this is false) to continue his “current failed policies.” This raises a question: Which policies is McConnell talking about?
Perhaps McConnell is restating the position of many Republicans, who have argued that Obama’s policy of deferring deportation of the DREAMers is to blame for the current crisis. That’s functionally a call for deporting the DREAMers. Republicans have tended to paper over the real meaning of their own position, but some of them, such as Senator Jeff Sessions, have been honest about its true implications. So does McConnell agree that we should respond to the current crisis by deporting the DREAMers?
There are reasonable grounds for assuming that this is his position until he clarifies otherwise. That’s because McConnell signed a recent letter to the president attacking him for de-prioritizing removals of low-level offenders from the interior. As I’ve tried to show, that is tantamount to calling for maximum deportations from the interior — the DREAMers included, since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is, for Republicans, the most prominent symbol of Obama lawlessness exacerbating our immigration crisis.
Meanwhile, McConnell opposes legalization for the 11 million, even though the current crisis is an argument for immigration reform, not against it. Despite Grimes’s dodge, she’s right to discuss the crisis in the context of the need for broader reform.
But here: On the DREAMers, let’s give McConnell the benefit of the doubt. Let’s stipulate that he should simply be asked whether he supports ending DACA — and deporting the DREAMers — in response to the current crisis. He probably won’t be pressed hard to answer this, since Republicans continue to benefit from news outlets’ complete failure to pin down the actual implications of their positions on immigration issues. But if he were, it might become apparent that, for all of Grimes’ dodging on the current funding question, the larger contrast between them is quite clear: One supports legalizing the 11 million if border security conditions are met; and the other supports mass deportations.
I don’t know which way that plays in Kentucky, but you’d think folks paying close attention to this race would want to nail this stuff down either way.
* REPUBLICANS DEBATE GIVING OBAMA BORDER CRISIS FUNDING: Congressional Republicans are currently exploring two proposals that would change the 2008 trafficking law to give Obama the flexibility he wants to expedite removals of arriving minors, which would give Republicans a way to give him the $3.7 billion he’s asked for to address the crisis:
Though details could differ, the goal is the same, aides said — namely, to give the Obama administration the flexibility to more quickly deport thousands of unaccompanied minors who have entered the country illegally across the southwestern border…Obama has called on Congress to amend the law to help clear a large backlog of children awaiting deportation hearings before immigration judges.
It looks like Republicans are looking to get to Yes on the funding for the crisis Obama has asked for, because their current no-funding posture may be unsustainable, and need to show that they are extracting concessions in return. Yet Obama wants the type of legal changes they’re suggesting.
* DEMS QUESTION OBAMA’S HANDLING OF BORDER MESS: Indeed, Democrats are questioning the legal changes the administration is asking for. The idea would be to treat Central American kids the same as Mexican ones, but Dems like Dick Durbin worry it would put them at risk and say they may not support such changes without adequate safeguards built in:
“I want to make sure that the children who are going through this have proper advocacy and representation… I’m concerned about what’s going to happen to these kids. God forbid some of these children go right back in the hands of murderers and rapists.”
As I’ve noted here before, depending on how this is implemented, this policy change could produce a new round of horror stories.
* THE POLICY DILEMMA AT HEART OF BORDER CRISIS: National Journal has a good piece explaining the various ways public officials are trying to persuade Central American parents that their kids will not be allowed to stay in the U.S. This boils down the dilemma:
Lawmakers are trying to figure out just what exactly will prevent parents from paying thousands of dollars to smuggle their children into the United States, escaping possible murder, rape, gang recruitment and intensified violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle.
This is a complex problem with many causes, which makes the media obsession with presidential photo-ops at the border all the more strange.
* WHY CONSERVATIVES OPPOSE ACTION ON ECONOMY: Paul Krugman keeps up his assault on conservative opposition to aggressive monetary policy to ease the suffering of the financial crisis’s aftermath:
Using monetary policy to fight slumps is a form of government activism. And conservatives don’t want to legitimize the notion that government action can ever have positive effects, because once you start down that path you might end up endorsing things like government-guaranteed health insurance. But there’s also a much more direct reason for those defending the interests of the wealthy to complain about easy money: The wealthy derive an important part of their income from interest on bonds, and low-rate policies have greatly reduced this income….using monetary policy to fight depression, while in the interest of the vast majority of Americans, isn’t in the interest of a small, wealthy minority. And, as a result, monetary policy is as bound up in class and ideological conflict as tax policy.
* MEDICARE WAR ERUPTS IN KENTUCKY SENATE RACE: Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes are both up with ads pummeling each other over Medicare, with Grimes pointing to McConnell’s support for the Ryan budget’s Medicare cuts and McConnell countering that Obamacare gutted Medicare. Glenn Kessler has a useful guide to the factual realities underlying this debate, finding that both sides are relying on false but tried-and-true party talking points.
It’s worth noting, though, that even though this debate revolves around Obamacare in a red state, McConnell doesn’t have the clear political upper hand on it. He’s currently trying to distance himself from his previous support for the Ryan plan.
* GOP LAWSUIT PUNTS ON IMMIGRATION: The New York Times write up of the new legislation on the House GOP lawsuit against Obama rightly notes that its focus only on Obamacare means it “will sidestep the more politically problematic issue involving Mr. Obama’s executive action offering work permits for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.” The Times adds: “Republican leaders have carefully avoided challenging the president’s 2012 executive order concerning young illegal immigrants.”
The alternative would have been to sue the president for not deporting all the DREAMers, which wouldn’t exactly have done wonders for GOP Latino outreach, such as it is these days.
* GOP LAWSUIT UNDERMINES CASE AGAINST OBUMMER TYRANNY: Brian Beutler notes that suggestions of widespread, serial lawbreaking by the president are kind of undermined by the narrowness of the lawsuit’s claims against it:
On Thursday evening, Boehner laid down his cards. All but one were blank. It turns out Obama’s vast and indisputable misconduct is limited to one act of enforcement discretion: his decision to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees provide their workers health insurance or pay a penalty…the GOP has spent weeks and weeks accusing Obama of unbridled lawlessness, when they didn’t really have the goods.
And it’s not even clear whether the lawsuit will accomplish its true goal of scratching the GOP base’s impeachment itch.