It is starting to look as if the hard-line “illegal is illegal, dang it, they’re felons!” line in the sand drawn by the House GOP is starting to shift a bit. Yesterday, they signalled a willingness to drop language tying illegal immigration to felony-level penalties, even as they deflected blame onto the Democrats (CNN):
Frist and Hastert also criticized House Democrats, who, they said, opposed efforts by Republicans to strip the provision from the bill before it passed.
But what were they really doing in the House? Was their proposal grounded in reality? According to the Washington Post, the answer is no. Instead, they were merely making a statement to appease their “base”:
“It was an ugly bill in most respects, the felony stuff, the wall and no amendments,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who tried to add a guest-worker provision but was not allowed a vote. “The leadership saw this more as a statement than a policy, but I think in the end we would have been better off had we been more deliberative.”
This sounds like the old “We were just kidding” routine to me. Evidently, they radically underestimated the scale of the reaction.
The Democrats saw the writing on the wall much faster, and called the Republican bluff by publicly holding their feet to the fire. The result seems to be that the GOP lost face, lost support, and internal credibility:
In the wake of this week’s massive demonstrations, many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights.
Given the nearly even voter split in the US, it seems obvious that both parties are eyeing the potential weight immigrants could give to their side of the scales. For the Republicans, this isn’t likely to play out well with the less flexible. Dan Riehl at Riehl World View epitomizes the GOP damage:
I hope there’s a leader somewhere in that crumbling party, which today appears to be a shadow of itself, full of political whores intent on abandoning principle so as to pimp themselves for votes. If Republicans remain on this co-dependent Democrat path they are on, look for significant third party challenges from the Right. From what I am seeing today, I would strongly consider voting for one now.
Meanwhile, the Democrats will go for the jugular as they press to widen the gap. TalkLeft describes that political strategy well:
The demonstrations are working. We need to keep them going until we get an immigration reform bill that protects the undocumented among us, allows a path to citizenship that doesn’t require leaving the country and unreasonable hurdles, includes protections and benefits for workers and respect for families, civil rights and due process.
There appears to be rather a lot of ground to cover in the middle to reach compromise, don’t you think?
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Update: Captain Ed comes in with a much calmer view from the right.