In a very rare and historical moment, the Senate Thursday passed a controversial bill, and it did so with strong bipartisan support. Fourteen Republican Senators joined all Democrats including the two Independents to pass the first reform of immigration in a generation.
The Republican Senators that bucked their leadership as well as majority of their fellow Republicans in the Senate, showed not only courage but honor. They deserve credit and perhaps they should receive a nomination for a Profile in Courage Award. Not only were they bucking their own party in the Senate, they were bucking the majority of rank and file Republicans. Recent polls show Republican voters oppose most of the provisions in the immigration bill.
The Democrats from red states that voted for the bill also deserve recognition because they risked their re-election to do the right thing. The brave Republican Senators probably bought themselves a primary challenge from the right next time they run.
The fourteen Republicans who broke ranks are Senators Alexander (TN), Ayotte (NH),
Chiesa (NJ), Collins (ME), Corker (TN), Flake (AZ), Graham (SC), Hatch (UT), Heller (NV), Hoeven (ND), Kirk (IL), McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), and Rubio (FL). Senator Chiesa of New Jersey was appointed to fill out Senator Lautenberg’s term and is not a candidate in the October election.
The Democrats from red states that risked their seats are: Begich (AK), Landrieu (LA),
Pryor (AK), Donnelly (IN), Manchin (WV), Tester (MT), and Hagan (NC). Senators Baucus (MT), Johnson (SD), and Rockefeller (WV) are not running for re-election. Senators Begich, Landrieu, Pryor, and Landrieu are up for re-election this year and are already being targeted by Republicans over their votes.
Senator John McCain warned Republicans not to hold the yes votes against the Democrats in red states that voted for the bill. Don’t expect them to listen, however. Even if the RNSC does not target them, outside right-wing groups will and have already started.
Not to diminish the courage of Republicans who did the right things at some peril to themselves, the facts are 32 Republicans in the Senate—69% of their 46 members, voted against the bill. This along with the well publicized opposition of the Tea Party caucus in the House as well as the avarice and vitriol coming out of the mouths or Republican talk show hosts, is hurting the image of the Republican Party among Hispanics.
Getting immigration reform passed in the House is a long shot given the organized opposition already expressed by so many Republicans in the House.
Speaker Boehner insists that he will not bring the Senate bill up for a vote in the House—period. He says he will only bring up an immigration bill or bills that have a majority of both Democrats and Republicans supporting it. Previously he said he would bring a bill up that Republicans supported, but now he is including Democrats—but why?
Boehner may be trying to set Democrats up given his latest statement.
The only way he can get a majority of Republicans to support a bill is to load it with poison pills that make it so watered down and weak that Democrats can’t support it. House Republicans have a warehouse full of poison pills, like the one that sunk the farm bill last week. If they put up a bad bill and Democrats vote not, Republicans will use that against Democrats.
Hispanics voters are smart enough, however, to see through Republican stunts especially when the debate will provide lots of quotes and sound bites by Republicans that Democrats can use against the Republican brand.
If the House passes a bill, the options are for a conference Committee to work out the differences, or if the Houses do not go to conference, Immigration Reform will be dead unless the Senate agrees to the House bill. It appears that House Republicans want to kill reform and blame it on Democrats.
If immigration is going to pass, Republican donors and business needs to scare House Leadership into bringing a moderate bill to the floor and letting it pass with a majority of Democratic votes like happened with the Violence Against Women Act. Otherwise, the Republican brand may be permanently damaged with Hispanics and other recent immigrant groups.
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