This week, we may find out whether Congress is capable of responding to the crisis of young migrants crossing the border — or whether it will punt entirely before going home for August. If the latter happens, both parties will bear blame. While Republicans are divided over whether to respond to the debacle at all, Dems are divided over whether the solution should speed deportations of arriving minors, and Obama, in addition to Republicans, is taking a beating from the public over his handling of it.
But beyond this crisis looms Obama’s decision over how far to go in acting unilaterally to ease deportations from the interior. In this context, Ronald Brownstein explains that the immigration battle could damage the GOP for years, because Obama’s coming action on deportations raises a striking possibility:
Such a move would infuriate Republicans, both because the border crisis has deepened their conviction that any move toward legalization inspires more illegal migration and because the president would be bypassing Congress. They would likely challenge an Obama order through both legislation and litigation. Every 2016 GOP presidential contender could feel compelled to promise to repeal the order.
Those would be momentous choices for a party already struggling to attract Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership initiative at the conservative American Principles Project, warns that if Republicans “again fall for the trap” and try to overturn an Obama legalization plan without offering an alternative path to legal status, the party will condemn itself to another lopsided deficit among Hispanics — and to a likely defeat — in 2016….
…on immigration, as on other social issues such as gay rights and contraception, he is driving decisions that could shape the two parties for years — and cement the Democratic hold on the coalition of growing demographic groups that powered his two victories.
This is a key insight. Right now Republicans are responding to the crisis by calling for an end to Obama’s deferred-deportation program for DREAMers, which is effectively a call to deport them all. But if Obama expands that program — and no one knows how ambitious he will be — Republicans will be calling for that expansion to be rolled back, which means their calls for deportation will only grow. This could put Republicans heading into 2016 with a position on immigration that’s further to the right than Mitt Romney’s self-deportation prescription.
The current crisis undoubtedly holds major political risk for Obama. The pressure on him to show it can be managed is intense. But the optics for Republicans are perilous, too. Here’s what we might see this fall: Republicans will have failed to respond to the current debacle because they wanted kids deported faster and didn’t want to spend money on a humanitarian response — and they will have failed to act on the broader immigration crisis because they can’t accept legalization of the 11 million — even as they are showing themselves quite capable of … forging ahead with their lawsuit against the president. That contrast would look pretty bad on its own. But it could also send Republicans even deeper into a posture of total resistance to unilateral Obama action. Even as he is acting to solve the broader immigration crisis they refuse to address, Republicans will be committing themselves to the demand for ever more deportations.
* IS THE BORDER CRISIS STARTING TO ABATE? The New York Times reports that the flow of young migrants crossing the border is “showing some signs of abating”:
Bus operators here say they are noticing a decline in the number of unaccompanied children headed to the border. The police have detained fewer young migrants at checkpoints. And the United States Border Patrol has reported a dip in the number of children and families apprehended in Texas, where migrants have been arriving in droves for months.
It’s too early to know for sure whether the flow is really easing, but it would be good news if efforts to get the truth out about the dangers of crossing and what U.S. law really holds in store for young migrants are starting to pay off. In political terms, as I’ve noted here before, the key is whether the Obama administration will be perceived to be managing the crisis.
* GEORGIA SENATE PRIMARY SET FOR THIS WEEK: Tomorrow, Georgia voters will choose their nominee to face Democrat Michelle Nunn, and the latest poll, Channel 2 Action News, shows Rep. Jack Kingston leading businessman David Perdue by 48-41. The survey also shows Nunn leading Kingston by eight, though the average has it much closer, at two points.
One thing to watch: Whether commentators begin treating the Georgia and Kentucky races (both GOP-held seats) as true toss-ups, which is how Colorado and Iowa (both Dem-held seats) are being treated. If Republicans can win Colorado or Iowa, their road to a majority gets a lot easier. But if Dems pick off Georgia or Kentucky, the GOP quest gets a lot harder.
* PERSONHOOD A MAJOR ISSUE IN COLORADO SENATE RACE: The Wall Street Journal looks at the big problems the Personhood issue is creating for Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, particularly since conservatives may put Personhood on the ballot in the state for the third time this fall:
Despite two failed campaigns in Colorado, they are advocating another personhood ballot question in November. That is helping Democrats keep abortion and birth control on voters’ minds and weighing on Mr. Gardner…In Senate races in Colorado as well as Michigan and other states, Democrats are trying to use such issues to expand the advantage they have among women voters. Republicans generally are playing down social issues and making the midterm elections mostly a referendum on a lukewarm economy, an unpopular president and his health-care law.
As reported here, multiple GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting Personhood in some form, and attacks on this are central to Dem efforts to get out the female vote (which may be key to saving the Dem majority), particularly in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.
* McCONNELL COMMENTS ABOUT WOMEN ROIL KENTUCKY RACE: Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign is circulating video of a local newscast about Mitch McConnell’s recent suggestions that “most of the barriers have been lowered” for women and that “not everybody needs to go to Yale.” The video is meant to show that the McConnell comments — and Grimes’ attacks on them — are driving local coverage.
This is exactly the turf Grimes wants this race to be fought upon, allowing her to cast McConnell as hidebound (“yesterday’s Senator”) while emphasizing pocketbook issues important to constituencies key to her Senate bid, such as women and students.
* WHERE’S THAT ‘GOP WAVE’? Nate Cohn has a good piece running through all the evidence that the long-promised “GOP wave” in the Senate races has yet to materialize:
The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable…Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012…If there is to be a wave this November, the signs of a shift toward the G.O.P. ought to start to show up, somewhere, soon…the implementation of the Affordable Care Act…has faded from the forefront of the news…the economy and the deficit are both in a better place than they were in 2010.
Nobody could have predicted any of this. Seriously, all of this could certainly change, but it seems obvious that control of the Senate is basically a toss-up, with perhaps a slight edge for the GOP, which is where things have been for months.
* OBAMA MUST MAKE BETTER FOREIGN POLICY CASE: E.J. Dionne makes a provocative argument about the Russian crisis: The president needs to make it far clearer that, contra Republican critics, our involvement in the world is not simply being scaled back:
Obama has been ratcheting up sanctions and pushing Europe toward a tougher stance….The notion that the United States is retreating from the world is simply wrong….Obama must match his clarity about the limits on what the United States can do militarily with equal clarity about what the United States is doing and will do to create a modestly less dangerous world.
Of course, Obama’s critics would not allow even for the existence of any evidence that contradicts the “Obummer weakness is responsible for all global disorder” story-line.
* AND THE DEBT APOCALYPSE NEVER MATERIALIZED: Paul Krugman recaps the history of how our political classes decided the deficit was the greatest threat to our country, noting the deficit has been brought under control and that the future is eminently manageable:
What would it take to avoid any rise in the debt ratio? Surprisingly little. The budget office estimates that stabilizing the ratio of debt to G.D.P. at its current level would require spending cuts and/or tax hikes of 1.2 percent of G.D.P. if we started now, or 1.5 percent of G.D.P. if we waited until 2020. Politically, that would be hard given total Republican opposition to anything a Democratic president might propose, but in economic terms it would be no big deal, and wouldn’t require any fundamental change in our major social programs. In short, the debt apocalypse has been called off.
As always, the party that claims to care most about debt (the GOP) is the one that would be less likely to accept any long-term solution that requires both sides to make concessions (Dems have long been inclined towards a solution that combines spending cuts and tax increases).