By Markos Moulitsas - 06/04/13 11:05 PM EDT
Immigration advocates in the Senate appear confident of getting the 60 votes necessary to pass a comprehensive reform bill for the first time since 1986.
But some senators, like New York’s Charles Schumer (D), don’t believe that’s good enough. They’re shooting for a lopsided 70- to 75-vote supermajority, which they think would put pressure on recalcitrant House Republicans to follow suit.
Yes, a handful of Republicans have suggested they’d be open to supporting the legislation if it contained specific amendments to strengthen border security and erode workers’ rights. For example, Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch warned that he wouldn’t vote for final passage unless newly legalized immigrants were prohibited from receiving benefits their tax dollars already pay for, such as ObamaCare subsidies or disability insurance.
It’s an odd spectacle. You have Democrats inviting the obstructionist Senate Republican minority to amplify their already outsized legislative influence, on the off chance that the destructive House Republican majority will decide to start behaving reasonably. Yet anything that passes the House will be dramatically reshaped anyhow.
It’s the classic Democratic approach in the Obama era: negotiate against themselves hoping against hope that Republicans embrace those pre-concessions. It never works.
On the other hand, Republicans seem confused about the reason they’re even talking about reform in the first place.
There’s little in this bill that’s of interest to Republicans. The corporate wing of the GOP likes the idea of exploiting guest workers, but the Tea Party and social conservatives are outwardly hostile toward immigrants. The idea of normalizing the status of these “lawbreakers” chafes and drives the conservative base bonkers.
The problem is, they have no choice. They can count the votes cast in recent elections, and they can read census demographic reports. The GOP is a party doomed to national impotence unless it can figure out a way to start winning brown votes.
Republicans lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Mitt Romney actually won the white vote in 2012 by 20 points, but by losing African-Americans by 87 points, Asians by 47 points and Latinos by 44, he handed Barack Obama a second term. Asians are the fastest-growing demographic group in the country. The median age of an American-born Latino is 18, compared to 42 among non-Hispanic whites. Every month, 67,000
Latinos turn 18, while more than 100,000 predominantly white and conservative elderly Americans die. There are now more Latino schoolchildren in Texas than whites, and Latinos are projected to become the state’s largest ethnic or racial group within the decade. California will hit that milestone next year.
That’s the reason Republicans are even considering immigration reform — electoral reality. So if they’re going to engage in this process, why lard up the legislation with amendments designed to further punish immigrant groups (both Latino and Asians)? If the goal is to get this issue off the table so it stops hurting Republicans, why introduce clauses that remind Latinos every single day that Republicans still hate them?
The GOP needs to decide whether it’s going to make a good-faith effort to work with Latinos, thus giving the party a future electoral fighting chance, or whether it will continue its xenophobic ways, surrendering the White House for the foreseeable future.
And Democrats need to fight for the best possible legislation for the nation’s immigrant communities, without pandering to the Republican minority by further weakening labor laws or adding punishment for immigrants.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)