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Morning Plum: The GOP’s real position on immigration, laid bare

Republicans face a very simple dilemma on immigration: Either they embrace reform, or they are inescapably the party of maximum deportations.

As you know, I’ve been making the case that this is the choice Republicans face. But now we have a senior House Republican essentially confirming it for us.

The Republican in question — GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte — didn’t put it that way, of course. But in an interview with Univision Jorge Ramos that aired yesterday, he inescapably revealed that to be the case, and in the process, he made real news.

Ramos repeatedly pressed Goodlatte to explain why it is that House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform. Goodlatte repeatedly claimed the problem is that Republicans can’t trust Obama to enforce the law, as evidenced by the fact that deportations from the interior have dropped. Goodlatte explicitly said the problem is that only people convicted of serious crimes are getting deported from the interior.

Ramos then pressed Goodlatte on whether this means Republicans want to see more deportations from the interior. Goodlatte — who as chair of the House Judiciary Committee is a key player on immigration — refused to answer directly:

BOB GOODLATTE: That is the problem.  Only people who committed serious crimes.
JORGE RAMOS: So your point is that you want more people to be deported?
BG: My point is that I want the President to enforce the law, and that way Congress will feel the pressure to reach a resolution to deal with the people who are lawfully here, who have been law abiding citizens. And if they meet the terms that the law might provide, like paying taxes and paying a fine, and learning civics about the United States, and other things like that, we could reach a solution.  But if the President keeps showing that he won’t enforce current law, then we’re going to have this ongoing problem where people in the Congress don’t trust that.  And that creates a problem for me.  Trying to convince my fellow members to do it.

This is how Republicans have boxed themselves in on this issue: They’ve defined “enforcing the law” as maximizing deportations from the interior, no matter who gets removed. It’s true that removals from the interior have dropped under Obama. But that reflects the fact that the administration is prioritizing removals of people caught crossing the border, which have gone up, and has deprioritized the removal of certain classes from the interior. By defining that shift in priorities as a failure to enforce the law, and claiming this as the chief obstacle to moving forward with their own proposals to legalize the 11 million, Republicans have effectively defined their policy stance as follows: Obama is not deporting enough low level offenders with lives here, so therefore we won’t embrace any form of legal status for them.

Goodlatte can’t admit to this directly, of course. But  Goodlatte’s interview serves as a reminder that the real obstacle to reform is that Republicans are not yet willing to embrace any form of legalization for the 11 million under any circumstances. Jeb Bush’s recent comments about immigration were controversial precisely because they constituted a moral challenge to Republicans to find a way to accept legal status for the 11 million. Indeed, Goodlatte himself suggests that legalization for the 11 million is the goal — while implicitly acknowledging that Republicans can’t support this because not enough of them currently living and working here are getting deported. It’s a nonsensical position, but that is inescapably their stance, and it’s good to have this demonstrated so graphically by a senior Republican.

* RATE OF UNINSURED FALLS YET AGAIN: Gallup with the big news: The percentage of uninsured has now fallen to the lowest level the polling firm has recorded since it began tracking this in 2008. Jonathan Cohn explains what this number does and doesn’t tell us:

Republicans and other critics of the health care law keep saying the law isn’t having much impact on the number of uninsured Americans. A few even suggest it’s having no impact at all. These arguments are just not  credible anymore. At this point the trend in the Gallup polling, clearly isn’t a blip. It points in the same direction as previous surveys, from the Rand Corporation and the Urban Institute. And it’s consistent with evidence about the raw number of people who have signed up for insurance through the new marketplaces — and, yes, who have paid their premiums.

Meanwhile, Republicans are planning yet another round of hearings designed to reveal all the ways Obamacare is a disaster, which again gives rise to my question: How much longer can Republicans pretend the law’s beneficiaries simply don’t exist?

* POLL HAS VERY BAD NEWS FOR DEMS: A new USA Today/Pew Research poll paints a grim picture for Democrats: It shows them trailing in the generic ballot match-up by four among registered voters, 47-43, and the “registered voter” category doesn’t reflect the “midterm drop-off” problem Dems face. Voters say by 43-39 that pursuing GOP policies would do more to improve the economy than Obama’s policies are doing.

The HuffPollster average of polls puts the generic match-up much closer to a tie, though even a tie probably translates into Republican gains.

* ENERGY IS ON SIDE OF GOP: One other tidbit from the USA Today/Pew poll:

Democrats are significantly less motivated by their support for Obama, a factor that could complicate the critical effort to turn out voters. In 2010, 47%  cast a vote to show their support for him; that’s dropped to 31%…The president continues to be a strong motivating force for the other side: 46% of Republicans say they will cast a vote to show their opposition to him.

Of course, Dems are well aware of this problem, which is why they’re spending $60 million on turnout in hopes of offsetting it.

* OBAMA EYING LEGACY ON CLIMATE CHANGE: The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports that Obama is increasingly driven by a sense that his actions on climate will prove to be a key component of his legacy:

After years of putting other policy priorities first — and dismaying many liberal allies in the process — Obama is now getting into the weeds on climate change and considers it one of the key components of his legacy, according to aides and advisers…while he routinely brings up climate change in closed-door meetings with world leaders, according to his aides, he also discusses it in his private life, talking about global warming’s implications with his teenage daughters.

The key test will be the boldness of his coming executive action to curb carbon emissions on existing power plants. That, along with successfully implementing of Obamacare, could amount to a consequential second term even without any cooperation from Congress.

* KEYSTONE DEBATE TO HEAT UP THIS WEEK: The Senate may vote this week on a bipartisan push to move forward with the Keystone pipeline, and Paul Kane has a good piece explaining the sensitive behind-the-scenes negotiations and what they mean. This is noteworthy:

At its core, the debate is about producing energy, and jobs, versus environmental protections. Yet Keystone’s actual impact is far less significant in those areas and instead has become much more politically symbolic for the sides engaged in this fight. Even the rosiest estimates predict just 9,000 jobs would be created by allowing this nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to be constructed from western Canada down to Nebraska — a nice bump but not exactly a game-changer for a domestic economy that created 288,000 jobs in April.

Keystone, of course, is central to the GOP jobs agenda, along with the repeal of Obamacare.

* WHY REPUBLICANS KEEP DISSEMBLING ABOUT OBAMACARE: Paul Krugman runs through all the data points showing that the real story is Obamacare is succeeding, and notes that Republicans continue to falsely claim otherwise, for very specific strategic reasons:

First of all, it fires up the base. After this latest exercise in deception, we can be fairly sure that Republican leaders know perfectly well that Obamacare has failed to fail…Beyond that, the constant harping on alleged failure works as innuendo even if each individual claim collapses in the face of evidence…So Republicans are spreading disinformation about health reform because it works, and because they can — there is no sign that they pay any political price when their accusations are proved false.

Republicans only have to keep the base enraged about Obummercare (and Benghazi) for another six more months.

* AND THE POLITICAL AD OF THE DAY, OBAMACARE DERANGEMENT EDITION: Iowa GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst is out with a new ad in which she pulls a handgun from her purse and unloads it into (what else) the Affordable Care Act, before asking voters to give her a “shot” as Senator. Who says Republicans don’t have a policy agenda?