Thursday, January 29, 2015

Obama's Amnesty Trap

The word from the Capitol is that right now Bohener (House Majority Leader) and McConnell (Sen Majority Leader) are trying to find a way to fight Obama's "Amnesty Executive Order" (as promised) without de-funding the Department of Homeland Security. The plan, as laid out by the House was to tie a repeal-order (actually, a lack of funding) to the DHS funding forcing Obama to either sign it, undoing his "amnesty," or take the fall for de-funding Homeland Security.

A few points:
Wait--Obama's Amnesty?
In case you weren't paying attention, it's this: Obama's executive orders do the following:
⦁ Create a new deferred deportation program for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident children if they have been in the country for more than five years. They would not be eligible for Obamacare, but in nearly all states they would be able to get driver’s licenses or in-state tuition at public colleges.
⦁ Expand protection from deportation to more “dreamers,” or people who came to the U.S. illegally as children, and grant more work permits to high-skilled workers.
⦁ Establish a new priority system for deporting illegal immigrants, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to focus on people serving jail time for criminal offenses.
⦁ Add more immigration judges to the border region so illegal immigrants who are deemed low-priority can be released more quickly, and recent border crossers and those with serious criminal records can be deported.
The Omnivore thinks this isn't much of an "amnesty" as these things go. Dreamers are sympathetic (they may not speak their "native" language and have grown up in America--have clean records and are in school). Not breaking up families seems like a decent position to take on the face of it. Focusing on deporting people with criminal records looks okay too . . . if you're going to prioritize.

However, that said, the net-effect is that about 4.1 million people will get to stay. They won't get to vote--but if they did? You can be pretty sure they'd vote Democrat since these actions can be instantly un-done by the next president. While we're here . . . 

So . . . yeah.

So What Is The GOP Thinking?
The GOP was thinking that it wanted to win elections. The base--the high-turn out core constituents of the Republican party are older, whiter, and consider the people this helps to be invaders (read the comments on any of the links). The GOP brass didn't want to engage in a brand-damaging show-down on the eve of the 2014 elections so they said "hey, wait until next year!" This sold well with most people who (a) considered the previous government shutdown a humiliating debacle and (b) thought that, hey, if we do win the Senate, we'll be that much better prepared to do battle!

The problems with this were:
  • There was no scenario where the Republicans won a 60-seat Senate majority. The GOP won by historic margins and still only got to 54 seats. Without the 60-seat majority, the Democrats, if they vote as a bloc, can veto the bill.
  • Not holding the presidency means that if the bill does pass both houses, the president can still veto it.
  • If he doesn't veto it, the actual bill--which involves funding DHS and de-funding the immigration services, would not necessarily work since the immigration services are fee-based. 
In other words, this was always a kind of snake-oil promise. Now, that's not the whole story. The other part of the story is that IF the GOP's bill managed to get bi-partisan support in the Senate THEN if Obama declined to sign it they could probably hang "endangering the country" around his neck.

That, really, was the only physically possible strategy all along.

Why doesn't the blame-game work with Congress? Because Congress isn't just one guy and because the issue, while still in the Senate is still seen as partisan. The Senate Democrats want a "Clean bill to fund DHS"--meaning no riders or other stuff on there. This is, essentially, keeping the "status quo." It's a defensible position rhetorically.

If the bill gets the six Democratic signers, though, it goes to the president as "The Voice of Congress"--which has a lot more claim to being "the voice of the people" than it did back in chambers.

Without that, though, the bill is dead and the public-relations fall-out probably isn't toxic enough to move the needle and hurt the Democrats.

So why'd the GOP even try to sell this?

Well, part of the reason is that Obama moved on it in a very strategic manner. His solution: amnesty with no path to citizenship (and, therefore, no vote) is a middle-of-the-road path that at least had some currency with the populace in general and some republicans in particular. NOTE: polling (recent polling, anyway) suggests that when formulated as a poll-question, letting the immigrants stay is not popular--however, The Omnivore suspects that the actual meat of the president's orders (keeping families together where the children are legal, supporting the sympathetic Dreamers) would, in fact, poll pretty well.

There's also the strategic issue of Republicans who would like to win Hispanics sometime in the coming 20 years.

The real answer [for caving in] can be discerned from the nature of Plan B. Understand first, that the regime Obama has imposed — amnesty for most illegal immigrants but no path to citizenship — is the substantive policy most Republican legislators (and quite possibly most Republicans, period) favor. You don’t need to be a “Washington insider” (I’m certainly not) to pick up on this.
Basically, Obama picked a fairly moderate position and the base, by requirement of hating everything Obama does, is forced to demand ACTION. The GOP electorate must necessarily promise ACTION, even when no substantial result is likely (or even possible). Once elected, the party must then do damage control to figure out how they can "placate" the base (such as by suing Obama--an attack that is unlikely to anywhere) while still attempting to hold their coalition together and, you know, maybe even legislate.

It does not take an 11-Dimensional chess strategist to know that by taking actions that are moderate (see: Obama stopping drilling in the arctic but opening drilling off the Atlantic coast) which will be sold as tyrannical overreach via conservative news outlets the GOP will be forced again and again into a corner where it must reconcile the gap between its most ideological base with both its more moderate constituency and the country in general.

Of course that's not the 'Obama Amnesty Trap.' Obama's amnesty was a far-cry from what he wanted (the Dreamers act). It's just a token effort that can be easily undone by a Republican administration. No, the Amnesty Trap was the one GOP-leadership set for its voting base. This situation was, of course, clearly visible from a long way away.

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