The process of dying is never easy or painless. Death by starvation is particularly grueling: the body cannibalizes fat and tissue, wasting to skin and bones, leading to dehydration, incoherence and, ultimately, heart failure. It is a slow and agonizing ordeal, even for the most committed hunger striker. It took IRA member and British MP Bobby Sands more than two months to die in Maze prison when he starved himself to death in 1981. And for those who are force-fed, the process is even more excruciating; they may endure as food is pumped up their noses and into their stomachs like a veal calf, but eventually they will die as well.
In recent weeks, a choreographed immigration narrative has taken shape: the 2012 election shocked Republicans into concluding that granting U.S. citizenship to 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants (and millions more of their relatives) provides the path to national electoral salvation. Divorced from political reality and practical legislative considerations, this formulation ignores Republican leaders' commitment to fairness, the rule of law, and voter opinion. It also ignores bicameral and institutional prerogatives leaders in both Houses have an obligation to defend. The inevitability of prompt passage of comprehensive immigration reform will unravel in the coming weeks. Here's why.
First, a large majority of Republican voters oppose granting citizenship to those who entered or remain in the country unlawfully. No matter how this proposal is packaged, Americans have historically opposed conferring citizenship to those whose primary claim to legal recognition is violating the law. Awarding citizenship to unlawful residents ignores notions of fair play and respect for the law central to our system of justice. Simply put, violating the immigration laws is neither a civic virtue nor a civil right. In 2005, the House passed comprehensive immigration enforcement legislation by a substantial margin. Members realized then what durable unemployment and historically low labor participation rates make even more clear now: immigration enforcement and border security must precede efforts to normalize the status of unlawful residents. House leaders recognize that the primary and general election viability of GOP members would be compromised if they did a volte face on a matter of principle to their constituents.
Second, fast tracking immigration legislation ignores institutional realities in both houses. Bicameralism and adherence to regular order preserve democratic accountability and the integrity of the legislative process. A self-appointed band of senators drafting major bills behind closed doors not only compromises these principles but diminishes the legitimacy of whatever product emerges. While Senator Rubio has pledged to ensure all senators have a chance to review the legislation, he has no authority to ensure it receive adequate consideration before committees of jurisdiction. In addition to Judiciary and Homeland Security Committee issues contained in the bill, the Senate Finance and HELP committees deserve an opportunity to determine the bill’s impact on tax, Medicare and healthcare costs associated with legalizing 12-20 million unlawful residents and millions more of their immediate relatives. If senators are deprived an opportunity to review the legislation under regular order, a filibuster is likely. Senators who support immigration reform would likely vote against cloture until they -- and their constituents --are convinced the proposed 850-page legislation receives the consideration it merits. This will be consume considerable floor time.
A marathon runner myself, I want to begin this week’s column by letting the runners, first responders, families and friends of those involved in Monday’s tragic events in Boston know that Pam and I send our thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to you. The acts of kindness and bravery following Monday’s horrific events warm my heavy heart, and I commend our first responders – the EMS, fire and police officers – who rushed to help victims not knowing whether they were in harm’s way. President Obama, our police and intelligence officers and the leaders involved in this investigation deserve our support and prayers as they work to bring the person or persons behind this atrocious terrorist attack to justice. As the president said, when confronting terrorism and perpetrators of heinous attacks like these, there are no Republicans and Democrats – only Americans.
We in Kansas harbor, properly, a deep commitment to the protection of Constitutional civil liberties and privacy. It is in our DNA. We don’t, reflexively, turn to government to improve our lives — we turn to each other and we share what we have to improve the lives of all. And, when it comes to keeping America secure, we are also committed to getting it right.
Threats from cyberattacks are mounting, and the damage they are inflicting on individuals and businesses each day in America continues to increase. This year, I was honored to be appointed to the House Intelligence Committee where I now see firsthand the enormity of the cyberattack threat from malevolent nation-state actors.
The current eroding security situation in Syria heightens concerns about the possibility of terrorists gaining access to chemical and biological weapons. In March, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified before Congress noting elements of Syria's biological weapons program "may have advanced beyond the research and development stage," and its conventional and chemical weapons systems "could be modified for biological agent delivery."
These new insights increase the real risks from Syria’s unconventional weapons and are in addition to the large stockpile of chemical agents it already has. While trying to prevent the Assad regime’s use of these weapons against its own people is the current focus of diplomacy and threats of military action; we should anticipate that these weapons will likely fall into the hands of terrorists who want to attack the U.S. and our interests. As part of a comprehensive approach, we should be prepared to protect ourselves from this threat.
Public opinion on immigration is proof that “times change and people change with them,” as the saying goes. With each passing year, more Americans understand that our current immigration law is neither beneficial to society nor favorable to our economy. A majority of people are pushing for positive immigration reform — something that seemed impossible even 5 years ago.
This change in public opinion is now being matched by political will. New legislation — sponsored by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” — offers a balanced approach to immigration reform, including a much sought-after temporary worker program by which immigrants can gain legal status and a more permanent remedy for “Dreamers,” those brought to the U.S. as undocumented children. The bill also prescribes an eventual path to citizenship for those who qualify, but only after federal officials achieve 100 percent surveillance and a 90 percent capture rate along the nation’s border areas.
Anyone who has read or watched any news source over the past year knows President Obama, numerous Administration officials, and many leaders in Congress agree that addressing the threat of cyber attacks is a critical national priority. Based on this threat analysis, the administration and many members of Congress continue to push for passage of cybersecurity legislation that would clarify and expand the government’s powers to receive and process traffic from American computer networks.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the heinous attacks at the Boston Marathon on Monday:
Today, the thoughts of every American are with the people of Boston, but especially with the many victims of yesterday’s horrendous attacks, and their families.
Many who were looking forward to celebrating the achievement of a loved one yesterday woke today to the grim reality of facing the rest of their lives with a disfiguring injury. For them, yesterday’s attacks were the beginning of a long, difficult journey. Three others who lined up to encourage others, including an eight-year old boy who was there to cheer on his dad at the finish line, lost their lives in the blast.
We pray in a special way for their families.
As the Senate prepares to debate gun safety legislation, Senators will go to great lengths to demonstrate they are ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment. Meanwhile, the House will consider the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, a bill with enormous implications for the 4th Amendment, but few members seem equally concerned about the impacts of the House legislation on Americans’ privacy and constitutional rights.
As Congress finds itself on the cusp on a bipartisan immigration solution, advocates and opponents of reform are anxious to see what the Senate "Gang of Eight" has cobbled together. From everything that I have heard and read, it seems that these Senators have reached a very reasonable, responsible, and fair compromise. As a conservative, I am not thrilled by some of the proposed agreements, but that's okay. If I was perfectly happy with this bill, it probably would not be acceptable to my friends on the progressive side of the aisle. If most proponents of this immigration overhaul are begrudgingly accepting of these proposed solutions to the crisis that confronts America's immigration system, then it seems that these Senators have gotten it just about right.