Backers of Obama’s action said the case will exacerbate frustration among Hispanic voters, an increasingly powerful bloc, and solidify their anger at Republican lawmakers who’ve thwarted changes to U.S. immigration law.“The GOP is trying to make this into some sort of legal issue about the president’s executive authority,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, said in a telephone interview. For Hispanics, “It’s not going to be a debate about some abstract constitutional principle.”
That is a key point. Republicans have long tried to frame the debate over Obama’s executive actions as purely about Obama’s lawless overreach. In reality, in voting to roll back those actions, House Republicans also voted to reverse the underlying enforcement priorities the President has instituted — priorities that focus more on removing serious offenders, while de-emphasizing the focus on removing undocumented immigrants who are low-level offenders and have jobs and longtime ties to communities.
In supporting Obama’s executive actions, Hillary Clinton has also embraced those underlying enforcement priorities, declaring that people with “deep ties and contributions to our communities deserve a chance to stay.” Democrats will portray continued GOP opposition to those enforcement priorities as a sign that Republicans have only moved to the right on immigration. This is surely not where GOP operatives had hoped to be. Remember that the GOP autopsy into what went wrong in 2012 explicitly noted that Republicans have to signal a more welcoming posture towards Latinos, to get them to listen to the GOP on other issues.
Also consider the timing. The 5th Circuit has only ruled on an injunction to halt Obama’s actions, and not on the underlying legal dispute. That dispute could drag on well into 2016, when the presidential race will be on full boil. And the eventual GOP nominee will have pledged to roll back all of Obama’s deportation relief.
Some say that there is little risk for Republicans in opposing his executive actions, because if anything, white swing voters probably oppose them. But remember, what will probably matter most about the politics of this fight for 2016 is how it impacts the impressions of the two parties formed among Latinos. And the non-white vote is poised to matter more in 2016 than in 2012, both in the presidential race and in the key states where top Senate races will be decided.
To be fair, it’s possible the GOP nominee could successfully neutralize the downside of opposing Obama’s executive actions by proposing a comprehensive immigration reform plan that includes some form of legalization. And there’s no question that Jeb Bush (who has spoken of the positive contribution undocumented immigrants might make to American life) and Marco Rubio (who is of Cuban descent and championed the Senate bill) can plausibly claim they’d likely fare better among Latinos than Romney did.
Still, one wonders whether GOP operatives — the ones who are actually paid to win national elections — privately like what they’re seeing here. My bet is they don’t.
UPDATE: Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez is thinking along these lines. His response to the latest court ruling: “The longer the court process takes, the harder it is to imagine a Republican candidate remains competitive in a bid for the White House, because increasingly, this will be the defining and decisive 2016 campaign issue.”
* SENATE IN MAD PANIC OVER BULK SPYING: The Hill reports on the frantic last-minute efforts by Republican Senators to find a way out of their jam: There aren’t 60 votes to extend NSA bulk surveillance, but there aren’t quite 60 for the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which would end most of that surveillance, either (it got 57 in the last vote).
At this point, there probably isn’t any compromise that would pass. With the complete expiration of the relevant section of the Patriot Act looming, all McConnell has to do is stop demanding that GOP Senators oppose the Freedom Act, and it would probably pass.
* SENATORS WHO WILL DECIDE FATE OF BULK SURVEILLANCE: Meanwhile, National Journal takes a look at the 10 Senators who are widely believed to be potential swing voters in the battle over whether to end bulk surveillance. One interesting nugget: Three of the Senators who are thought to be wavering — Mark Kirk, Pat Toomey, and Kelly Ayotte — are facing tough reelection campaigns in states carried by Obama.
It will be interesting to see if they ultimately come around and support ending bulk surveillance, perhaps out of fear that a vote for it be used against them.
* SURVEILLANCE DIVIDES GOP PRESIDENTIAL FIELD: David Drucker has a smart piece on an under-covered story: The 2016 GOP presidential contenders are divided over continuing NSA bulk surveillance. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz oppose it; Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio all want to continue it.
This is one area where there is a legitimate foreign policy debate and contrast among the GOP candidates. And with opposition from Paul and Cruz making an extension of bulk surveillance harder, this debate may actually succeed in ending it.
* ‘DEBT-FREE COLLEGE’ PROPOSAL GAINS MOMENTUM: Today the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is announcing that nine Democratic Senators will be coming out for a proposal to extend “debt free college” to the nation’s students. The idea, first offered by Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer and House progressives, is a statement of intention to find ways to enable students to emerge debt-free from public colleges and to support increased investments by states in higher education.
Though it’s going nowhere in Congress, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has talked it up. It’s the latest example of progressives pushing a once-marginal idea into the Dem mainstream.
* JEB BUSH CAUGHT DISSEMBLING ON IRAQ: Glenn Kessler takes apart the latest Iraq contortion from Jeb Bush: His claim that ISIS didn’t exist when George W.Bush was president.
Keep an eye on this one. It will likely be part of a much broader, two-pronged GOP effort to rewrite the history of the Iraq War: The GOP presidential candidates will say they wouldn’t have gone in based on what we know now, and the current mess is all Obama’s fault.
* AND RAND PAUL BLAMES ISIS ON GOP: Senator Paul keeps breaking with GOP orthodoxy:
“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’ job even easier. They’ve created these people.”
That will complicate the talking points a bit!