Judging by much of the Beltway chatter, the current crisis at the border poses political risks almost exclusively to Obama and Democrats. But a new Washington Post/ABC News poll illustrates clearly that the issue poses a serious political challenge to Republicans, too.
The poll finds widespread public unhappiness with Obama’s handling of the crisis: 58 percent of Americans disapprove, as do 54 percent of Hispanics. That’s as it should be. However, an even higher percentage — 66 percent of Americans, and 68 percent of Hispanics — disapproves of Congressional Republicans’ handling of it.
Meanwhile, the public supports Obama’s proposal to address the crisis:
The federal government is considering emergency spending of $3.7 billion to deal with an influx of unescorted children from Central America entering the United States. Half the money will provide care for these children while their deportation cases are heard. The rest will be used to speed their deportation hearings and to increase border security. Overall, do you support or oppose this plan?
Crucially, only Republicans and conservatives oppose the plan. A majority of independents (51 percent) and moderates (58) support it, but only 35 percent of Republicans back it, versus 59 percent who are opposed, and only 36 percent of conservatives back it, versus 59 percent who are opposed. Among “conservative Republicans,” those numbers are a dismal 29-66.
This again raises the question: Can any plan to address the crisis pass the House? As I noted the other day, conservative groups such as Heritage Action are opposed, and may “score” the eventual vote on it, meaning more pressure on GOP lawmakers to vote No. Any funding plan first has to clear the Senate, which will be hard, but Democratic aides believe it will be doable. The House is another matter.
True, the eventual plan may contain changes to the 2008 trafficking law to expedite removals of minors, which could give House Republicans cover to vote for funding, allowing them to argue they forced Obama to get tough on the border in exchange for it. The problem, as I have tried to show, is that any such changes risk losing the support of Congressional Democrats, which Speaker John Boehner may need to get it passed. All of this may well put Boehner, who has privately urged Republicans to pass the funding, in a very familiar place: Convinced legislating is politically the right course for the GOP, but under fire from the right and in need of Democrats to accomplish anything constructive.
The question is whether Boehner’s predicament will be exacerbated by the fact that large majorities of Republicans and conservatives oppose the proposed solution. Majorities of Americans support the basic outlines of what must be done here — more money to speed up the removal process, but also more money for humanitarian care and protections for arriving children. But Republicans oppose the plan, probably in part because Obama proposed it, and in part because it spends resources on something other than securing the border — a fact that has emerged as a key Republican talking point against it.
If the Senate were to pass funding, and the House were to kill it — thanks partly to its expenditures on humanitarian purposes — that could prove awful politics for the GOP. Now, it’s very possible the House will end up passing the plan, perhaps comfortably. But getting there could be an ugly process, and all the noise against it from the right along the way probably wouldn’t reflect terribly well on the GOP, either.
* DEMOCRATS HOLD LEADS IN COLORADO AND MICHIGAN: New NBC News/Marist polls find that Dem Senator Mark Udall is leading challenger Cory Gardner by seven among registered voters in Colorado, 48-41, while Dem Rep. Gary Peters leads GOPer Terri Land in the Michigan Senate race by six, 43-37. The polling averages in Colorado and Michigan show closer races, but NBC polls are very high quality, so they should drive some discussion today.
Leads such as these — if they are real and persist over time — will bear watching to gauge whether Republicans are meaningfully broadening the map beyond the core red state battlegrounds. Tomorrow NBC is set to release polling on the Iowa and New Hampshire Senate races, which will also shed light on this.
* GENDER GAP LIFTING DEM CANDIDATES: More key findings from the new NBC poll:
A gender gap is helping the Democratic candidates in these two states. In Colorado, Udall is up by 12 points among female voters (50 percent to 38 percent), but he’s running neck and neck with Gardner among men. And in Michigan, Peters is ahead by 13 points with women (46 to 33 percent).
Among Latinos – who make up 16 percent of registered voters in the Colorado poll – Udall has a 31-point lead over Gardner, 58 to 27 percent.
That last finding among Latinos is a reminder that the Colorado contest is one race where immigration really could matter this cycle, and Gardner is already on defense over it.
* CONTROL OF SENATE REMAINS TOSS UP: Stuart Rothenberg releases a new assessment of the Senate map, concluding the battle for the Senate remains a “toss up,” with some interesting ratings shifts. He moves the North Carolina Senate race slightly in Kay Hagan’s direction, because of Thom Tillis’ anemic fundraising and association with the unpopular North Carolina legislature. And he notes Terri Land’s chances in Michigan appear dim. But he says Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Udall in Colorado are both embroiled in tough contests that are basically toss-ups.
The bottom line is what we’ve seen for months now: Republicans will all but certainly win seats in South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana. They still need three more wins out of a core of five or more genuinely contested battlegrounds — and that’s if Dems don’t manage a surprise pickup in Kentucky or Georgia.
* BORDER CRISIS BILL MOVES FORWARD: GOP Senator John Cornyn and Dem Rep. Henry Cuellar are set to introduce a new proposal to change the 2008 trafficking law to expedite removals of newly arriving minors:
The Cornyn-Cuellar bill, known as the Humane Act, would allow children from Central American countries to opt to be voluntarily sent home, as migrant children from Mexico and Canada can currently choose. It also would allow children with a legal claim for remaining in the country to make their case before an immigration judge within seven days of undergoing a screening by the Department of Homeland Security. Judges would then have 72 hours to decide whether the child can remain in the country with a sponsor while pursing legal action. The legislation would also authorize up to 40 new immigration judges to expedite the process.
What still remains unclear at this point is what course of action Dem Senate leaders prefer — moving something forward that only supplies the funding Obama has asked for, or moving something that includes changes to the 2008 law designed to win over Republicans.
* HOUSE GOP GRAPPLES WITH BORDER RESPONSE: Related to the above: The Hill reports that a House working group on the border crisis today will present to the House GOP caucus a proposal to change the 2008 law to expedite removals of minors. How this plan is received will provide clues to the party’s overall direction on the crisis.
* BOEHNER FACES TOUGH BORDER DILEMMA: Billy House explains the difficulties Boehner will face, given conservative opposition to Obama’s proposal to address the crisis:
Publicly, at least, Boehner has already said some of the things conservatives want to hear. He has declared the House is not giving Obama “a blank check,” and he has called this a crisis of the president’s “own making.” And on Monday, a House GOP leadership aide predicted Boehner will likely seek both to force the White House to “take a haircut” on the dollar amount — and to “take on border security provisions.”
But will that be enough? Boehner could once again find himself locked in trying to quench the often unquenchable demands of conservatives who don’t want any more spending outside of the established appropriations process and budget caps. And while doing so, he once again has to be measuring the potential alienation of House Democrats whose votes he might ultimately need to pass such a measure.
Right. And as noted above, the fact that majorities of Republicans and conservatives oppose the proposed solution to the crisis probably won’t help matters.
* AND PUBLIC THINKS GOP LAWSUIT IS ‘POLITICAL STUNT’: The Dem-allied Americans United for Change has commissioned a new Public Policy Polling survey that finds 53 percent of Americans think the House GOP lawsuit against Obama is “a political stunt that wastes taxpayer money,” while 44 percent say “Obama has overstepped his bounds” and “should be sued.” It finds that 46 percent say they’ll be less likely to support GOP candidates this fall if the lawsuit goes forward, while, only 30 percent will be more likely to do so. The latter, of course, appears to be the audience for the suit in the first place.
The merits of the poll aside, it again shows that Dems will use the lawsuit to make the case that Congressional Republicans are not capable of constructive governing central to their 2014 argument.