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 McCainChuck Todd's 'MTP Daily' moves time slots, Nicolle Wallace expands to two hours Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Asian American voters could make a difference in 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump putting TikTok ban on hold for 45 days: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Biden VP possible next week; Meadows says relief talks 'miles apart' Pompeo: Trump taking action on Chinese software firms 'in coming days' MORE (R-Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Trump putting TikTok ban on hold for 45 days: report This week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms MORE (R-S.C.), Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery MORE (D-N.Y.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Campaign Report: Who will Biden pick to be his running mate? Don't count out Duckworth in Biden VP race Schumer: Trump should want COVID-19 deal to help GOP election chances MORE (D-Ill.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHow Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response Our national forests need protection — and Congress can help 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 LeahyVermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Hillicon Valley: Twitter bans thousands of QAnon accounts | Bipartisan support grows for election funds in Senate stimulus bill | Senate committee advances bill to ban TikTok from federal devices 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.