Learned cluelessness from Politico

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Accomplice to Kabuki! “The most serious threat to bipartisan immigration reform,” writes Politico‘s Carrie Budoff Brown, “doesn’t involve border security or guest workers or even the path to citizenship. It’s about gay rights.”

Budoff’s scenario–which she says worries the “Gang of 8” backing the bill–is that Dems will add “an amendment during the bill markup next week allowing gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for green cards.”  As a result, Republicans may bail on the amnesty legislation.  “[T}he coalition that helped put it together will fall apart.”

This seems like complete nonsense. The gay equality issue isn’t going to sink the immigration amnesty (“reform”) bill. Democrats won’t let it. If the gay-partner provision threatens to kill Obama’s #1 legislative priority on the Senate floor, Democrats will remove it.  They can tell liberal supporers they tried–Congress is very good at setting politicians up to say they tried but, gee, the votes just weren’t there.

For example, the amendment could be offered on the Senate floor, where it would fail to get the necessary 60 votes but allow Democrats and some Republicans to go on record in seeming support. Or the gay provision makes it into the bill, but the bill itself  fails to get 60 votes. Then the Dems take out the provision and have another vote.  Or the amendment gets removed in conference with the House, giving Democratic senators a “yes” vote on the initial bill and Republicans a subsequent “concession” they can use as cover for a final pro-amnesty vote. 

That last thing, I suspect, is the real purpose of the gay dispute. The Kabuki of Amnesty not only includes fake fights between Marco Rubio and the President, and fake anti-Obama ads praising the Republican senators who support Obama’s immigration approach, but also the creation of fake threats that can then be used as bargaining chips with gullible conservatives (or fake-gullible conservatives).

Politico is going along with this Gang of 8 Kabuki by pretending, with seeming cluelessness, that this particular side issue is some kind of dangerous poison pill.  The bigger the press (and talk radio) fuss about gay partners, the bigger a concession it will seem when it gets dropped.

True, bills sometimes fail because they lose support on the left and the right. That’s what happened to Nixon’s “guaranteed income,” for example.  A bill’s managers will adjust it–a little to the left here, a little to the right there–to minimize the loss of support at the edges. Sometimes that is impossible-the middle is just too small–and a bill fails. But it’s rare–and stunningly incompetent–for managers to insist on an amendment that gratuitously sinks a passable bill by tilting it too far to the left or the right and missing the middle entirely.

That won’t happen here.  If the amnesty bill fails it will be because enough people on the rightish side of the spectrum simply think its basic approach–immediate legalization in exchange for written-on-water promises of border enforcement–is bad policy, or because they are scared of their constituents who think it is bad policy. It won’t fail because that stupid Sen. Leahy insisted on his  idealistic gay marriage clause.  He won’t.

Opponents of amnesty, in particular shouldn’t fall for that false hope. The amnesty side isn’t about to fumble. They will have to be beaten on the ground, on the core failings of the bill (“border security or guest workers or …the path to citizenship”–the concerns Carrie Budoff Brown dismisses).  The gay issue only can only divert attention and energy from those core debates.

P.S.: But didn’t amnesty fail in 2007 after a “poison pill” amendment? On the surface yes. But it was allowed to fail on a poison pill amendment because enough Senators (including, some say, Harry Reid) wanted it to fail for other reasons.  There is a Japanese word that applies.

Mickey Kaus