Consider what the House GOP is up to right now. House Republicans recently passed an immigration amendment, pushed by anti-reform diehard Steve King, that would effectively mandate the deportation of the “DREAMers” who were taken to the U.S. as children. House Republicans are planning a vote next week on a measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, after defeating amendments that would exempt cases of rape or incest. And yesterday, House Republicans approved a version of the 2012 National Defense Reauthorization Act that contains what The Advocate calls “three controversial, antigay amendments, one of which is aimed at delaying repeal implementation of don’t ask, don’t tell.”
What do these three things have in common? They would seem to run directly counter to the belief among some Republican strategists that the party needs to move beyond cultural battles and preoccupations that imperil the GOP’s ability to remake itself as a more tolerant, inclusive party and to better reach out to constituencies it has alienated.
That much-ballyhooed Republican National Committee “autopsy” into what went wrong in 2012 declared that the Republican Party needs to improve its outreach to Latinos, women, and gays, and acknowledged a need to reckon with the rising embrace of gay rights among young voters. Analysts have similarly determined that the Republican Party’s failure to improve its appeal among these groups could be problematic over the long term, because they comprise key groups in the “Rising American Electorate,” i.e., groups that are increasingly important to the Democratic coalition of the future and will only be growing as a share of the vote. Yet these big-ticket items emerging from the House appear narrowly pitched to nativists and religious and social conservatives who make up the GOP base.
Even some Republicans appear worried about this. As one unnamed GOP strategist told National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, the King amendment on immigration “reinforces a tone of insensitivity that is just beyond baffling.” Kraushaar concluded that recent GOP behavior — including the party’s spurning of pragmatic GOP governors like Chris Christie — suggest that the RNC’s recommendations “have been forgotten.”
As one Democrat remarked to me, if anything, all of this could intensify the pressure on Republicans to pass immigration reform, since they are running out of ways to genuinely signal a new, more tolerant, more inclusive direction. Yet even here, it’s looking very possible that House Republicans may not prove able to accept a path to citizenship. This, as a new analysis of a number of polls shows public support for immigration reform is overwhelming.
Of course, the flip side of this argument is: Why should Republicans change at all? After all, thanks to geographic patterns of partisan population distribution and gerrymandering, the GOP grip on the House remains a lock, and Republicans will likely make gains in the Senate. Which raises a question that I wish the political science eggheads would answer: Are the structural aspects of our politics such that no matter how aggressively Republicans pursue policies that risk alienating core voter groups they need to improve their appeal among, it won’t materially impact the party’s fortunes? Is there a point at which any of this matters?
* REPUBLICAN HITS GOP LEADERSHIP OVER ABORTION: Speaking of that measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, even Republicans such as GOP Rep. Charlie Dent are publicly criticizing it:
“I discouraged our leadership from bringing this to a vote on the floor,” Dent told CQ Roll Call. “Clearly the economy is on everyone’s minds, we’re seeing very stagnant job numbers, confidence in the institution of government is eroding and now we’re going to have a debate on rape and abortion. The stupidity is simply staggering.”
One wonders how many other moderate Republicans privately recognize the political danger for the GOP here.
* TRENT FRANKS RAPE CLAIM CRASHES AND BURNS: The controversy over GOP Rep. Trend Franks’ claim that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancies are very low” continues to rage. Glenn Kessler digs into whether it’s actually, you know, true so you don’t have to, and finds that it isn’t:
To some extent, one could argue that whether an incidence rate of one out of 20 is “very low” or not is a matter of opinion. But, by inference, Franks’ comment only makes sense if he is comparing the rate from rapes to rates of pregnancy through consensual intercourse. The available research suggests that not only is there little or no difference, but the rate of pregnancy after rape may actually be slightly higher. Under any definition, that does not qualify as “very low.”
* DEMS HIT GOP OVER ITS WOMAN PROBLEM: Relatedly, the DNC is out with a new memo that accuses the GOP of a “new war on women’s health” by recapping the planned House GOP abortion vote, as well as a number of anti-abortion initiatives pushed by Republicans in states. The memo notes that the moves seem politically at odds with the fact that the recent GOP “autopsy” concluded the party needs to fix its problems in part with better outreach to women.
* DEMS HIT GOP OVER ITS WOMAN PROBLEM, PART II: Meanwhile, the White House-allied American Bridge is relaunching its similarly themed Web site, “ItsNotJustAkin.com,” which gives a rundown of the records and statements of many leading Republican officials on women’s health issues. Akin, of course, is the author of the infamous “legitimate rape” quote of 2012. The Web site, and the above DNC push, are meant to advance the charge that Akinism remains alive and well within the GOP, one Dems hope will help keep that gender gap exacerbated heading into 2014 and 2016.
* MORE TRANSPARENCY NEEDED ON FISA COURT: E.J. Dionne has a good column endorsing that bill pushed by Dem Jeff Merkley and Tea Partyer Mike Lee that would declassify key opinions by the FISA court enabling the NSA programs expanding surveillance.
As I noted here the other day, the key question about this bill is: Given the widespread acknowledgment of the need for a “debate” about the balance between liberty and security, how many members of Congress will support this measure designed to bring a bit of transparency to these programs, so we can actually have that debate?
* STUDENT LOAN FIGHT LOOMS IN CONGRESS: With a fight set in Congress over low student rates set to expire on July 1st, Howard Dean has a good piece explaining the larger issues that are really at stake here for the generation of students that is grappling with an uncertain future, as well as for the country at large. As Dean notes, the debate in Congress — among Dems and Republicans included — is to the right of Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to give students the same interest rate enjoyed by the banking industry, around which progressives have coalesced.
* AND DARRELL ISSA’S IRS PROBE IS FALLING APART: Joshua Green has a good succinct summary of how the House GOP investigation ringleader’s quest to tie the White House directly to IRS targeting of conservative groups is running smack into a wall of that niggling thing known as “facts.” Issa has refused to release full transcripts of testimony from key witnesses, which alone suggests the facts may actually confirm no White House involvement.
Yet Republicans continue to insist the probe will yield results, and Issa has even suggested White House involvement. If Green is right, and there’s nothing here, it’ll be interesting to see how Issa wraps this investigation up and gets out of this.