As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) telegraphed earlier in the week, the Gang of Eight’s immigration-reform plan is undergoing amendments in the Senate Judiciary to make the bill more conservative and get a large majority in the Senate.
In a press release, Rubio’s office relayed the course of three of these amendments from friendly Republican Senators Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.):
Three amendments — the Grassley 2, Grassley 5, and Flake 2 — all improved the reporting of progress on border security. The Grassley 2 amendment requires reports on the border to be submitted to both the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary. The Grassley 5 amendment requires the DHS CFO to submit annual audits of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to Congress and make the report available on the Internet for the general public to review. The Flake 2 amendment revises the schedule for DHS’s submittal of the semiannual status report regarding the implementation of the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy to 180 days after submission, and every 180 days thereafter. Flake 2 also adds the Comptroller General of the U.S. as a recipient of the status report, and adds a requirement for the Comptroller to conduct an annual review of the reports submitted by DHS, as well as require the Comptroller to submit an assessment of the status and progress of the implementation of the Southern Border Security Strategy.
His office separately identified another change: “Senators were able to identify ways to make the border fence more specific. The Cornyn-Leahy Amendment – created with Rubio’s help – ensures that border fencing and other resources are deployed effectively across the southern border and at ports of entry by insisting that no less than one billion dollars be used to deploy, repair or replace border fencing.”
What is interesting about these releases is that they recite the complaint and the GOP senators or outside groups who made the complaint (e.g., Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas). He is dealing with their concerns in methodical fashion.
One by one, the objections of conservatives are being knocked down. Democrats don’t object, because, as I’ve reported, their bottom line is that the bill must include a pathway to citizenship. Some senators still won’t support the bill because their key objection all along has been a pathway to citizenship. But with Rubio’s strategy, it will be apparent that this really is the only complaint and that the bill adequately meets legitimate concerns.
Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation is in a tailspin. To Politico and then to me, Heritage’s vice president of of communications, Mike Gonzales, denied that he or Heritage has hired a crisis management firm. If not, Heritage should. More details about the unsavory work of one of its anti-immigration report authors are coming to light. Chris Moody reports: “Heritage Foundation analyst Jason Richwine, the co-author of a study claiming the immigration reform bill pending in the Senate would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, wrote two articles in 2010 for a website founded by Richard Spencer, a self-described ‘nationalist’ who writes frequently about race and against “the abstract notion of human equality.”
Another report suggests that “Richwine is not the only scholar conservative immigration opponents in the current debate have relied on and who’ve published eyebrow-raising views in the past. The Heritage Richwine snafu will bring fresh scrutiny to other scholars, immigration advocates said.”
Former vice president of research Burton Pines is also denouncing Heritage’s work. He is quoted as saying; “It’s a new Heritage and it’s one that’s not standing by the principles of Ronald Reagan. I’m puzzled why they came out with this study and I’m more puzzled why they seem to be against immigration.”
In a word, it’s a mess. Only four months on the job, former senator Jim DeMint, who came to Heritage with no scholarly credentials, is caught in a firestorm of Heritage’s own making. A backlash that tarnishes the report and anti-immigrant forces more generally may undermine opponents of the Gang of Eight. But to the extent it raises questions about whether Heritage is still a respected think tank (and not a political oppo center), DeMint will find himself under the gun. A conservative scholar at another think tank emailed me, “I just don’t understand why [former president Ed] Feulner among others did not see this disaster coming.” More conservatives will be asking the same thing, I imagine.