The chatter continues today about GOP Rep. Eric Cantor’s harsh attack on Obama, in which he alleged the President has failed to cooperate with Republicans on immigration, throwing reform’s prospects into doubt. Cantor’s comments tell us a great deal about today’s GOP — especially when placed in the context of Jeb Bush’s controversial suggestion that illegal immigration is an “act of love.”
Short version: Jeb Bush called on Republicans to find a way to accept integration of the 11 million into American society as a morally tolerable and practically desirable outcome. Cantor declared, in effect, that this isn’t going to happen, because #Obummer.
Cantor, responding to Obama’s accusation that House Republicans had failed to move on reform, insisted the president will not railroad them into passing the Senate bill. As conservative news outlets were quick to point out, Cantor had a reason for this: He is under fire from the right for pushing legislation that would legalize just the DREAMers. Seen this way, Cantor’s move was about deflecting scrutiny from conservatives by appearing to take a tough posture with Obama for trying to shove amnesty down Republicans’ throats.
Cantor has gotten attention for wanting to soften the GOP’s image and make the party look more tolerant, an effort that includes this push for a vote on the DREAMers. But what that push really shows is how limited efforts to make the GOP appear more inclusive really are. Only legalizing the DREAMers falls dramatically short of addressing the 11 million, yet even this gets Cantor hit from the right.
Remember, Republican leaders themselves have declared that some form of legalization for the 11 million will be a necessary component of any reform overhaul. Last summer, John Boehner insisted “the vast majority” of GOPers agree we must wrestle with how to legalize the 11 million. The recently-released GOP reform principles declare legalization, under certain conditions, as a primary goal. Yet House Republicans have produced no formal proposal that would achieve that goal — their own stated goal — under circumstances they themselves can support. Only they can resolve whether there exists any set of conditions under which enough House Republicans can support that goal. Until then, the de facto GOP stance is either the status quo (the 11 million remain in shadows of illegality) or deportation.
The real meaning of Jeb Bush’s comments is that he asked Republicans to get to a place — through an appreciation of the moral ambiguity of the plight of many of the 11 million, and a recognition that they have something to contribute to our country — where this is no longer the de facto GOP position. (As E.J. Dionne points out, Bush was asking Republicans to accept an “increasingly diverse nation as an asset.”) Cantor’s outburst is pure deflection — it entirely elides the basic dilemma Republicans face, claiming the problem is simply that Republicans can’t accept the solution Obama is championing. The actual problem is that as of now, there isn’t any solution to the problem — as Republicans themselves have defined it — that is acceptable to them. In other words, they just aren’t ready to cross the Rubicon Jeb Bush asked them to.
* PERSONHOOD AS MAJOR ISSUE IN SENATE RACES: Hardball runs a good segment detailing that many GOP Senate candidates have embraced Personhood in one form or another, and why that could be a big liability in this fall’s contests. As my Post colleague Nia-Malika Henderson puts it on the show, this is a “sleeper issue” that will enable Dems to broaden their pitch to women — and their case against GOP candidates — from women’s economics to abortion and contraception. Watch for a lot more of this.
* FEMALE SENATE CANDIDATES RAKE IN CASH: Relatedly, a good catch by the Fix team:
By the end of Tuesday’s deadline for congressional candidates to submit first-quarter fundraising totals, Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Georgia’s Michelle Nunn and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes were three of the biggest standouts. They each outraised their Republican competition and brought in totals exceeding $2 million.
* CENSUS CHIEF PUSHES BACK ON OBAMACARE: Census Bureau director John Thompson is now pushing back on suggestions that survey question changes were designed to fudge numbers to hide the truth about Obamacare. He notes that changes were dated to 2013 to establish a benchmark; that there was no consultation with the White House; and that the changes were explicitly designed to make it easier, not harder, to measure the law’s actual impact.
It comes down to this: Questioning in the annual Current Population Survey — seen as useful for gauging differences among people with different incomes — was changed so that people who were insured for part of a year are no longer counted as uninsured for the whole year.
* ABOUT THOSE HIGH PREMIUMS: USA Today reports:
Statisticians working with insurers to project next year’s insurance premium rates say they expect to see an average increase of about 7%, well below the feared double-digit increases making recent headlines…Before the Affordable Care Act, premiums rose an average of 7-10% a year.
Yeah, whatever. #disaster
* MORE SIGNS OBAMACARE IS WORKING? Gallup finds that 4 percent of Americans are newly insured after not having any insurance last year, and Jonathan Cohn explains what this and other recent Gallup findings showing a decline in the uninsured mean:
While none of the survey findings to date are definitive, together they are a powerful rejoinder to the assumption — prevalent not just among conservatives but even among some liberals — that Obamacare has been a fiasco. It’s not clear how big a difference it’s making, or whether people will think that difference justifies the law’s costs. But it’s certainly making a difference.
As one expert tells Cohn: “It’s more confirmation that we are seeing gains in insurance coverage as the ACA rolls out.” One other key tell: it’s getting harder and harder for Republicans to pretend the law’s beneficiaries simply don’t exist.
* DEMS WANT TO GO ON OFFENSE ON OBAMACARE: The Associated Press reports that an increasing number of Dems are coming around to the view that aggressively standing up for the health care law is the best way to fend off attacks on it, particularly now that benefits are kicking in for millions and the repeal position is being revealed as a sham. This captures the situation well:
A recent AP-GfK poll found that strong opponents outnumber strong supporters, 31 percent to 13 percent. And motivated voters often make the difference in low-turnout nonpresidential elections. But the poll also found that most Americans expect the health law to be changed, not repealed. That puts Republicans in a tricky situation: GOP primary voters demand repeal, but general election voters in November are looking for fixes.
It’s good that more and more people are pointing out that despite disapproval of Obamacare which is real, the GOP repeal stance is also problematic and increasingly untenable.
* AND THE GOP’S REPEAL “SWINDLE”: Relatedly, Brian Beutler has a good piece documenting the GOP’s “grand swindle,” in which Republicans claim to support Obamacare’s goals but still refuse to own up to the actual implications of repeal, which shows they don’t actually support those goals. As Beutler notes, it’s partly on Dems to make sure this swindle fails:
The good news is that it will fail if Democrats are prepared to remind the public that Obamacare created these benefits; Republicans voted against Obamacare, to a person; they are still trying to repeal it; and they have a long record of opposing its means and its ends in equal measure. But the awful truth is that if Democrats are determined to avoid thoroughgoing debates about Obamacare, and at times they appear to be, then it might just work.
ICYMI: The latest version of the repeal-and-replace follies is unfolding in North Carolina, where American Crossroads has tweaked its ads for GOP establishment fave Thom Tillis after getting him attacked as insufficiently gung-ho about repeal.