First key fight in immigration battle is what to name bill

First key fight in immigration battle is what to name bill

One of the first political issues negotiators must tackle in crafting an immigration reform bill is among the most important: what to name it.

It’s a decision that will bruise egos, create legacies and deeply affect subsequent messaging battles.

“Every time the bill is mentioned in the press, you either have a brand that's positive or a brand that doesn't mean anything or even hurts you,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice.

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The wrong name, he warned, could doom a good bill.

“If there's not a catchy name, it gets defined by others,” he said. “I'm sure there are people on the other side trying to come up with a phrase or a word.”

No one knows what the House and Senate bills now being crafted in backrooms by select groups of lawmakers will be called, but it’s possible it could be named after some of the negotiators. They include Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAnalysis: Biden victory, Democratic sweep would bring biggest boost to economy The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture Mark Kelly: Arizona Senate race winner should be sworn in 'promptly' MORE (R-Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' Graham vows GOP will accept election results after Trump comments MORE (R-Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow fast population growth made Arizona a swing state Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Republican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google MORE (R-S.C.), Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Feinstein 'surprised and taken aback' by suggestion she's not up for Supreme Court fight Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death MORE (D-Ill.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezKasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Next crisis, keep people working and give them raises MORE (D-Colo.).

The last major immigration reform bill was named after McCain and former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a fact critics on the right used against it.

“McCain at that point was the presumptive nominee for his party ... and Kennedy was the liberal lion of the Senate, so the idea of having their two names associated with one another seemed like a really good idea in the beginning,” said Sharry. “But because of the revolt on the right and divisions on the left, mainly the revolt on the right, McCain-Kennedy was said with derision on the right.”

The fact the immigration bill was known as McCain-Kennedy was arguably a headache for the Arizona Republican when he faced a tough primary battle ahead of his Senate reelection in 2010.

His office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The eight senators negotiating a bill are considering a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

Conservative groups opposed to what they call an “amnesty” plan warn there will be repercussions for those who sign on to the bill, and certainly for anyone whose name graces the legislation.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) Communications Director Bob Dane said that would include Rubio, the one senator in the so-called group of eight who is seen as a likely presidential candidate in 2016.

“If any amnesty bill has any GOP ink on it, rank-and-file conservative voters will shut it down and, for extra credit, they are going to take any Republican who was on it to the woodshed during the mid-term elections and they'll remember Rubio during the presidential election,” Dane said in an interview with The Hill.

Rubio communications director Alex Conant told The Hill that although he hasn’t discussed the naming of the bill with his boss, the Florida senator is not as concerned with “who gets credit” for a plan, just that it reflect the principles set forth in January.

Conant noted that Rubio will “not sign on to anything that's doesn't reflect those same principles.”

“We feel confident that as long as we're sticking to our principles, conservatives are going to be continuing to support him,” he said.

Some senators, of course, might want their names on legislation that has a chance to be remembered for decades.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court Battle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy MORE (D-Vt.) will hold the hearings on the package; the House also has a less visible group of lawmakers negotiating a deal.

That leads Sharry to think negotiators will seek a title for their bill that prevents it from being named after a gang of lawmakers.

“I suspect some smart wags on the inside will come up with an acronym ... ‘The Solution Act, The Once and For All Bill, The Legal Immigration Control, Reform, Economic Growth, Law and Order Bill, [or] something like that,” he said.