Politics
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference opening plenary session in Washington, Monday, March 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference opening plenary session in Washington, Monday, March 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)  

McConnell downplays immigration deal, talks about debt and free speech

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Kentucky Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell evaded questions today about the emerging immigration deal in the Senate that would bring up to 46 million Democrat-leaning immigrants into the country over the next 20 years.

Instead, he answered questions about possible curbs on government trade unions, on Democrats’ efforts to mandate the release of GP donors names, and on the nation’s growing debt, which includes $17 trillion in federal borrowing and almost $80 trillion in promises of future spending.

When asked about the immigration bill, McConnell declined to comment.

‘I’m not doing an immigration press conference here,” he told the audience at the American Enterprise Institute.

“As you know, we’re going to be on that matter for another week of so,” he said.

The Hill newspaper reported today that Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to shut down debate on the bill early next week by forcing a debate-ending cloture vote.

The cloture vote would follow adoption of an amendment by two GOP Senators, Tennessee’s Bob Corker and North Dakota’s John Hoeven.

The amendment would allow — but not provide or guarantee — funding for large-scale border security that is now opposed by a large majority of Democratic legislators and activists. The amendment would not condition the award of amnesty to at least 11 million illegals to any measurable reductions in illegal arrivals over the border or through airports.

McConnell’s effort to avoid the immigration issue suggests that he’s not pushing hard to stop the immigration bill, which was shaped by top Democratic Senators and President Barack Obama, said Mark Kirkorian, director of the Center for Immigration studies.

“In public at least, he’s not fighting hard against the bill, and I can’t imagine he’s fighting all that hard behind the scenes,” Krikorian told The Daily Caller.

By not fighting, McConnell is “de facto … supporting the bill, but whether he ends up voting for the bill is yet to be determined,” Krikorian said.

Previously, McConnell promoted a rival compromise measure, authored by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Other GOP Senators have downplayed the issue, saying they have not studied immigration’s impact on the GOP’s future electability.

Obama has said that passage of the bill would be a “historic” achievement. It is one of his top priorities for his second term, which so far has not produced any legislative successes for progressives.

In 2010, McConnell said that  “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

During Friday’s AEI event, McConnell was outspoken on the issue he wanted to address: government efforts to restrict free-speech.

The progressive push to force the disclosure of donors’ names “is about nothing other than getting the names of your donors so you can go after them, and we ought to be discouraging that in every way we can,” he said.

The federal government is “bringing power down on people who think the federal government is too big,” he said, referring to the IRS’ targeting of conservative citizens’ groups.

The growing federal debt is the “transcendent issue of our time,” he said.

But McConnell isn’t publicly opposing the bill because, according to Krikorian, “he’s a corporate Republican, and this is something the corporations want.”

The bill would triple the inflow of immigrants to roughly 30 million over the next 10 years. Over 20 years, an estimated 46 million people would arrive or be legalized, providing much more labor and customers to business groups.

Roughly 90 percent of the immigrants will be low-skilled, and will not earn enough money to pay for the routine taxpayer aid provided to all low-skilled Americans.

The bill also doubles the inflow of university-trained guest workers, who will compete for jobs against the American professionals, who now pay a large slice of overall taxes.

The bill will also quickly push some GOP Senators towards the left, because it will add a large wave of immigrants who support Democratic policies, such as Obamacare and other aid programs, Krikorian said.

Already, Krikorian said, GOP Sen. Dean Heller has ditched his conservative vote-record in the face of a rising Latino population in Nevada.

Heller “has completely switched from a conservative to a de-facto moderate Democrat,” Krikorian said.

That leftward shift is being sought by progressive activists, who have repeatedly said that an influx of Latino voters will push American politics towards a more progressive direction.

“The left has been quite open in saying by changing the electorate, they’re creating the circumstance for getting what they want down the road,” said Krikorian.

If the bill passes the Senate, the political focus will shift to the House of Representatives, where Republican Speaker John Boehner is under increasing pressure from Democrats and business groups to pass a matching bill.

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