“Cantor Struggles With Immigration Blame Game”: Killing Immigration Reform Without Getting Blamed For Killing Immigration Reform
Exactly one year ago yesterday, the Senate easily approved a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform package that would fix the nation’s broken status quo, boost the economy, and lower the deficit. The legislation was quickly endorsed by private-sector leaders, labor unions, faith-based leaders, law enforcement, and immigrant advocates.
President Obama marked the one-year anniversary of the Senate’s action by issuing a statement urging the Republican-led House to stop doing nothing. “Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform,” the president said, adding, “We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.”
Obama then followed up with a phone call to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who apparently wasn’t pleased.
Cantor issued a blistering statement afterward, criticizing Obama for calling him just after delivering what he called “a partisan statement” that indicated “no desire to work together” on immigration, a top priority for Obama that House Republicans have largely ignored.
“After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done,” Cantor said in the statement. “You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue. I told the president the same thing I told him the last time we spoke. House Republicans do not support Senate Democrats’ immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House.”
For their part, White House officials seemed puzzled by Cantor’s outrage, saying the president and the Republican leader had a “pleasant call” in which Obama, among other things, extended Passover wishes to Cantor.
So what’s with the Majority Leader’s indignation? It appears Cantor hopes to kill immigration reform without actually getting blamed for killing immigration reform. Indeed, realizing the political risks associated with GOP lawmakers killing yet another popular, bipartisan bill, the Virginia Republican apparently hopes he can turn this around – Cantor wants to blame the death of reform on the president trying to pass reform over Cantor’s objections.
In other words, the Majority Leader has decided to play the blame game. Unfortunately for him and his party, he’s not playing it especially well.
Some of these policy debates can get complicated, but this one is surprisingly simple. House Republicans don’t want to vote on the popular, bipartisan immigration plan. House Republicans don’t want to vote on their own immigration ideas, either. House Republicans also aren’t open to legislative negotiations with House Democrats, Senate Democrats, or the White House.
House Republicans have made a series of demands as part of the immigration-reform process, which have been met, but instead of taking “yes” for an answer, GOP leaders still won’t consider action.
So how on Earth does Cantor expect to blame the president? Looking at the Majority Leader’s statement, note that he doesn’t suggest anything Obama said yesterday was factually incorrect, only that the president hurt Cantor’s feelings by being “partisan.”
Yes, House Republicans plan to go into the 2014 midterm elections by arguing that the demise of immigration reform can be attributed to one thing: Obama’s a big meanie.
Under the circumstances, it’s become increasingly difficult to take Cantor’s rhetoric on the issue seriously, but there are also policy implications to consider. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told Greg Sargent yesterday, “I’m convinced that if we don’t get it done by the August break, the president, who is feeling a lot of pressure from having not done anything on immigration reform, will feel that he has to act through executive action.”
In other words, if House Republicans refuse to act, the White House may have no choice but to do what it can unilaterally. Indeed, Diaz-Balart added that Obama would have all the cover he needs to act on his own: “[Congressional failure] would give every excuse for the president to move forward on dealing with the undocumented while blaming Republicans for Congress’ inaction.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 17, 2014
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) has once again outraised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in their 2014 Senate race — and all of a sudden, McConnell no longer seems so enthusiastic about the use of money as free speech.
In the first three months of 2014, Grimes raised $2.7 million, edging McConnell’s $2.4 million haul. McConnell still holds a decisive financial advantage in the race; his campaign has almost $10.4 million in cash on hand, more than double Grimes’ total.
That said, McConnell’s campaign has already spent more than $7 million in the 2014 election, only to see a slight decline in his polling numbers. And it seems that the new fundraising totals have made the Republican leader’s campaign defensive.
“The very same ultra-rich liberal elite who bankrolled Barack Obama into the White House are pulling out all the stops for Alison Lundergan Grimes,” spokeswoman Allison Moore told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Kentuckians know darn well her entire campaign is funded by those who seek to destroy Kentucky values and our way of life and the only way they can accomplish that is by getting rid of the man responsible for stopping them, Mitch McConnell.”
Moore’s implication — that Grimes is wrong for taking money from wealthy out-of-state donors — is rather ironic, considering that few politicians raise money from the “ultra-rich elite” better than McConnell does. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of December 31, 80 percent of McConnell’s campaign contributions came from donors outside of Kentucky (good for a total of more than $9.3 million). And the top donors to his campaign committee — which include Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs — don’t exactly scream “Kentucky values.”
McConnell has also benefited from outside groups that have jumped directly into the race; $3.4 million has already been spent in support of the Republican, according to GOP ad-tracking firm SMG Delta.
Although McConnell’s campaign is now feigning outrage that Grimes has raised big sums from “Obama’s liberal Hollywood friends” like Jeffrey Katzenberg, the senator is generally one of the nation’s most outspoken defenders of outside money in politics. In 2012, McConnell led the opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required political groups to disclose campaign contributions of more than $10,000. At the time, the minority leader argued that full disclosure could be used as a “political weapon,” enabling the government to unleash “harassment and intimidation tactics” against those who donate to opposition candidates.
Today, it appears that McConnell would like to turn the weapon against the “liberal elite” backing Grimes.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 16, 2014
Who’s afraid of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? It may not only be the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and their allies. According to a new report from Time’s Zeke J. Miller, the ranks of people who are quietly rooting for Democrats to hold the Senate by the skin of their teeth include all manner of Republican presidential hopefuls. Miller writes:
Behind closed doors and in private conversations with reporters and donors, GOPers eyeing the White House in 2016 are privately signaling they wouldn’t mind seeing the party fall short in this year’s midterm elections. For all the benefits of a strong showing in 2014 after resounding defeat in 2012, senior political advisers to some of the top Republican presidential aspirants believe winning the Senate might be the worst thing that could happen.
Miller identifies GOP governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas as being the prime movers in this, as they are all likely to contrast their can-do problem-solving with the feckless gridlock of Washington – gridlock that they’d have a harder time dealing with if the GOP controlled all of Congress. GOP senators too (Florida’s Marco Rubio, Texas’ Ted Cruz and Kentucky’s Rand Paul) would have a greater expectations problem if people actually expected them to do more than inveigh against Obama. Miller continues:
For candidates from either category, a GOP-controlled Senate and House would mean having to answer for their party’s legislative agenda in both a primary and a general election. Whether it be new fiscal deals struck with Obama or continued votes to repeal Obamacare, aides to potential candidates fear that congressional action may put a damper on their boss’ future campaigns by forcing them to either embrace or break with specific legislative proposal as opposed to general policy ideals.
All of these points are good and Miller’s article is worth a full read. I especially like the detail where he notes that GOP governors don’t talk so much about the GOP Congress (honestly little wonder given that the reviled Obamacare is way, way, way more popular than congressional Republicans).
But there’s another reason why Republicans should be wary of excessive success and it has to do with the schizophrenic nature of the modern electorate. The midterm electorate tends to be older and whiter than the presidential electorate and the electorate’s increasing polarization (where parties tend to run up steep margins among specific demographic groups, like Republicans among whites and Democrats among minorities) has produced off-year collections of voters that lean Democratic (because they’re younger and less white) in presidential years and lean Republican (because they’re older and whiter) in off-years. The upshot has in recent cycles been parties that have struggled to succeed with the other side’s electorate.
So while Republicans swore up and down that they were going to learn the lessons of 2012 about growing their base, success in 2014 could kill any steps in that direction (which, in fairness, haven’t much been in evidence).
National Journal’s Ron Brownstein explicated this phenomenon last June:
The peril for Republicans is that a good 2014 election could provide a “false positive” signal about their prospects for 2016, much as the 2010 landslide did for 2012. … The GOP can thrive in 2014 without solving [its youth voter] problem — but not in 2016. The same dynamic holds for Republicans’ minority problems. The GOP attracted 60 percent of white voters in 2010 and enjoyed a landslide. But because minority turnout increased so much just two years later, Romney lost badly while winning 59 percent of the white vote.
At The American Conservative, Scott Galupo (a former U.S. News contributor) sees something more than a “false positive” danger; he argues that GOP poobahs understand their party’s problem full well but are trapped.
Republicans, or at least a good portion of those who matter, know full well that the party has a problem going into 2016, quite apart from what happens this fall. The crux of it is this: there’s nothing they can do to change it in the near term. The adjustments they need to make in order to recapture the White House—find some way to deal with undocumented immigrants; give up on tax cuts for the wealthy; acknowledge the painful trade-offs of any serious Obamacare alternative—would jeopardize their grip on Congress.
It’s possible that Republican leaders are merely biding their time until the Senate is in hand. Why rock the boat when you can win by default? I suspect, however, that the truth is more inconvenient: Rocking the boat will be no easier in 2016 than it is now.
The bottom line of course is that deep down no one is going to root against their side winning – you take the victory in the hand rather than hoping that a narrow loss will bank-shot you to greater success in the future. But these considerations are a useful reminder that allied political interests aren’t always perfectly aligned and that sometimes short-term success can mask and even exacerbate long term problems.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, April 9, 2014
“Stuck Between Obamacare And A Hard Place”: As A Massachusetts State Senator, Scott Brown Voted For Romneycare
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will officially kick off his campaign to unseat New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tonight, as he attempts to return to the world’s greatest deliberative body (or something) after being ousted from his Bay State Senate seat by Democrat Elizabeth Warren two years ago. According to leaked excerpts of the speech he plans to deliver tonight, Brown will be campaigning against Obamacare, just as he did in 2010 when he won an upset in the race to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“Along with our money and our health plans, for a lot of us, it feels like we’re losing our liberty, too. Obamacare forces us to make a choice, live free or log on — and here in New Hampshire, we choose freedom,” Brown plans to say. (Get it? Because New Hampshire’s state motto is “live free or die.” But wait, if Obamacare is the major assault on freedom Republicans claim it is, do you have the choice to live free under it? Or is it just that “log on or die” didn’t send the right message? But I digress.)
There’s definitely a danger for Brown in taking this approach. Yes, the health care law has, according to a recent WMUR Granite State poll, a less than stellar approval rating in New Hampshire, with only 34 percent saying they approve of it while 53 percent say they oppose it. (Let’s add the caveat that the poll doesn’t say what portion of the opposition thinks the law goes too far and what portion thinks it doesn’t go far enough.) But Brown will have a hard time getting around the various problems other Republicans are running into when it comes to making Obamacare a focal point of a campaign.
For starters, the law may be unpopular in theory, but in practice, signups under Obamacare’s New Hampshire exchange have exceeded expectations. Does Brown have a plan for providing for those folks? Or how about the estimated 50,000 people who are going to receive health insurance under New Hampshire’s recently approved Medicaid expansion, which was made possible by Obamacare and on which Brown has thus far been mum? Those are real people who are experiencing real benefits from the law.
And therein lies the problem for Republicans, which Brown is eventually going to run into as well: Providing the benefits of Obamacare requires something that looks like Obamacare. Just look at this quote a Republican aide gave to Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur (emphasis added):
As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act. … To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA. You have to have a participating mechanism, you have to have a mechanism to fund it, you have to have a mechanism to fix parts of the market.
And Brown knew this once upon a time. As my former colleague Igor Volsky noted, as a state senator Brown voted for the Massachusetts health reform law that looks a whole lot like Obamacare.
This is exactly why the long awaited Republican health care alternative never actually comes to fruition. (Sure, some individual lawmakers have proposed plans, but the party hasn’t coalesced around one bill.) To actually craft an alternative, the GOP would either have to admit that Obamacare is a pretty darn conservative measure or admit, like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did the other day, that the popular provisions and benefits of Obamacare have to go away as well in order to enact a more Republican-y plan.
Will that latter approach work in still quite blue New Hampshire? Or will Brown try to get away with hand waving about an Obamacare alternative that will never materialize? Either way, spouting “live free or log on” will be no slam dunk.
By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, April 10, 2014
Up until fairly recently, Wisconsin’s Bill Kramer was the Republican Majority Leader in the state Assembly. As Rachel noted on the show on Friday, that changed when the state lawmaker was charged with two counts of felony second-degree sexual assault – charges that cost Kramer his GOP leadership post
The charges were not, however, enough to compel Wisconsin lawmakers to throw Kramer out of the state Assembly all together. He’s no longer the Republican Majority Leader, but he’s still a voting member of the legislative body. Some in the party have called on Kramer to quit, but for now, he seems to be determined to stay in office, and his colleagues aren’t prepared to force the issue, at least not yet.
Perhaps they’ll be interested to know that the recent sexual-assault allegations are not the first time Kramer has been accused.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, his chief of staff and a Waukesha County GOP official were all told three years ago of allegations that a then-aide to the senator had been sexually assaulted by state Rep. Bill Kramer, but none of them took the matter to the police or Assembly leaders.
The woman told her supervisor in Johnson’s office and a number of other people, but decided at the time to have her attorney send a letter to Kramer rather than go to the police, records show. Last month – nearly three years after the alleged assault outside a Muskego bar – the woman learned of Kramer’s alleged mistreatment of other women and filed a complaint with Muskego police that has resulted in two felony charges of second-degree sexual assault.
According to the weekend report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a woman who worked for Ron Johnson was allegedly assaulted by Bill Kramer in 2011, who then quickly informed several people, including her supervisor in Johnson’s office, Tony Blando, the senator’s chief of staff, who informed the senator himself.
But they didn’t tell anyone and remained silent when Republican state lawmakers elevated Kramer to the Majority Leader’s office. The aide in the 2011 incident only came forward after the 2014 allegations against Kramer came to public light.
So why didn’t the senator say something at the time? Initially, Johnson and his office didn’t want to comment, but after the Journal Sentinel was published online, the senator’s office changed its mind
…Johnson’s office issued a statement saying that when the woman spoke with Johnson and his chief of staff, Tony Blando, she already had an attorney. “Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando conveyed their commitment to be 100% supportive of any actions she chose to pursue on the advice of her legal counsel – up to and including the filing of criminal charges,” the statement said. “She requested that Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando keep the matter confidential and take no further action. Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando fully honored her request.”
U.S. Senate policies do not appear to directly address cases in which employees are assaulted by individuals from outside the Senate but do require internal reporting of sexual harassment. Each senator establishes his or her own employee policies. […]
According to the criminal complaint, the woman decided not to go to police at the time of the incident because she didn’t want to embarrass her family, the Republican Party, Kramer and Johnson as her employer. Instead, she had her lawyer send Kramer a letter saying she had been assaulted, that Kramer needed to seek treatment for drinking and that she would reconsider her decision not to report the incident to law enforcement if she learned of him acting inappropriately toward others in the future.
In other words, based on this reporting, Johnson and his team kept quiet because the alleged victim asked them to.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 7, 2014