In a major boost to reform, multiple reports this morning confirm that a bipartisan group of Senators, including the gang of eight, is nearing a deal on measures toughening up the security provisions in the gang of eight bill. By any reasonable measure, the compromise gives conservatives a good deal more in the way of border security.
The key items, according to reports and sources, are: A doubling of the size of the border patrol, to 40,000 agents. Seven hundred miles of border fence. A requirement that the security plan submitted by the Department of Homeland Security include provisions — such as those above — mandated by Congress. All of these would be “triggers” that would have to be achieved before the path to citizenship can start.
But — and this is big — the provision sought by conservatives such as John Cornyn, that 90 percent apprehension be achieved as a “hard trigger,” is no longer in the deal as a precondition for citizenship. As the Times puts it: “Republicans agreed to make the 90 percent figure a goal rather than a requirement.” The key is that additional Republicans beyond the gang of eight — such as Bob Corker and John Hoeven — appear prepared to accept this.
Leading immigration advocate Frank Sharry, who was briefed on the emerging deal, tells me Dems successfully beat back Republican demands for inclusion of the 90 percent “hard trigger.” And so Sharry’s group, America’s Voice, can support the deal, albeit reluctantly.
“The deal is ridiculous from a policy point of view — it’s excessive and wasteful,” Sharry tells me. “But from a political point of view, if it brings 10 or 11 Senate Republican votes, we’ll probably will be able to live with it.” Sharry says this is because the current triggers in the emerging compromise are “doable and achievable.”
And this really is the rub. Dems suspected Cornyn’s demand for a 90 percent apprehension rate trigger was deliberately designed as a metric that could be gamed later to kill citizenship. On-the-fence Senate Republicans had gravitated towards Cornyn’s amendment. But Dems and Repblicans on the gang of eight appear on the verge of turning back that challenge, and are close to carving out a space where more undecided Republicans can support reform while claiming they successfully held out for tougher border security provisions, without killing it.
Indeed, this morning, the office of Marco Rubio — who is being closely watched by GOP fence-sitters — blasted out an interview in which the Senator described the emerging deal as one that would “substantially increase” border security. That strongly suggests Rubio can support it; if both Rubio and Sharry can back it, that suggests real consensus and bodes well. Indeed, multiple reports say Republican Senators may get behind this in sizable numbers.
In short: We may be witnessing the defeat of a major conservative drive to kill reform. But by any measure, the emerging deal does give conservatives plenty more in border security. What will be particularly interesting is how House Republicans react. Is there any level of border security that can get conservative Republicans to accept citizenship?
Changes that so complicate a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as to render it meaningless are (and should be) unacceptable to supporters of reform, including most Democrats. But if the GOP senators accept something short of this, they will face furious attacks from the hard-core opponents of any move toward large-scale naturalization of those who came here illegally. In the end, there is no way around their dilemma. If they want a bill, they will have to take political risks.
Republicans must decide whether beginning to repair long term relations with Latinos is worth dealing with the consequences from the base.
What have Republicans shown the nation lately? There was a Tea Party rally this week, which followed a big fight over an anti-abortion bill that can’t pass. In the states, we see a focus on culture-war issues, including state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds. On Capitol Hill, most Republican lawmakers are running around talking about “amnesty” and “illegals,” which is every bit as insulting as their rhetoric about women
Yesterday, we even heard talk about “takers
,” as if the “47 percent” video never happened. And on the horizon, many in the GOP are already planning another debt-ceiling crisis.
Yes, that GOP “rebranding” continues apace…
* DEMS LAUNCH AD CAMPAIGN AGAINST MITCH MCCONNELL: Two outside groups allied with Democrats are launching a new ad in Kentucky targeting Senator Mitch McConnell as a career politician who voted to raise his own pay, bail out Wall Street, and cut benefits for seniors. The groups — the Senate Majority PAC and the Patriot Majority USA — say it’s the start of a major, multi-faceted media campaign.
Dems do appear to believe it’s not impossible that their preferred candidate (Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who hasn’t yet said whether she’ll run) could beat McConnell, though it’s likely a long shot.
* A REALITY CHECK ON THOSE APPROVAL POLLS: MSNBC’s First Read crew really gets this right in its morning First Thoughts email (no link yet):
Every political journalist and observer, including us, is guilty of drawing conclusions from just one poll. And yesterday, we received another reminder of the pitfalls of that practice. After a CNN survey (conducted June 11-13) found that President Obama’s approval rating had dropped to 45%
, a Pew poll (conducted June 12-16) found it steady
at 49% approve/43% disapprove….Folks, drawing conclusions from just one poll is like eating a box of donuts for breakfast — it tastes great and it’s different than your usual breakfast meal. But you usually regret it later.
Yup. Stick to the polling averages.