Fake is Real on Gang of 8 Vote

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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We Love Kabuki!  One of the oldest senatorial traditions is the Cloture Con: You vote “yes” on the vote to end debate, typically the crucial vote (because it requires a supermajority); then you vote “no” on the final vote to pass the bill, knowing your support’s no longer needed (because if the bill got 60 votes on cloture it will definitely have 51 to pass). The second “no” vote is for show. You can tell your constituents you opposed the bill, hoping they’ll ignore the more important, earlier cloture vote.

Sleazy! But it’s entirely possible some distinguished Senators who support the Gang of 8’s massive “comprehensive” immigration bill (S.744) will engage in this venerable deception.  Support for the legislation may sit well with big money donors but public opinion is  split–and opponents have all the intensity. The bill’s already passed the key cloture hurdle with 67 votes (69 if you count two Senators whose planes were delayed). At least some of those senators–especially red state legislators and GOPs with primary worries— may now be tempted to try to con the public by casting a for-show “no” on final passage.

The answer of principled opponents of the bill, faced with these patently deceptive and inauthentic opposition votes, is, of course … we’ll take ’em!  Every “no” vote counts at this point, because Senator Schumer has established a special, extraconstitutional hurdle on immigration: the bill needs 70 votes, he says, to have enough momentum to somehow bowl over House Republicans. If a nervous red state Senator engages in a bit of last-minute theatrics that reduces the final count to 68 or 67, that’s less meaningless than it usually is.

A Kabuki “no” might not even be all that fake.  On this issue, fake is real. For decades, after all, many legislators have in private supported some form of  “amnesty” legislation–that’s like breathing in the enlightened Northeast Corridor culture. But they’ve been too scared to announce it publicly. The typical vote against amnesty has been an insincere, Kabuki vote. That’s as authentic as it gets, at least for most pols. Their Kabuki “no”is “real” in the sense that it reflects the real power of real constituents to force their representatives to reflect their actual beliefs.  

How many fake/real “no” votes might there be? I have no idea, but the humiliating retreat of  Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer from her seeming embrace of the Gang Bill suggests there’s room for backsliding under pressure. Brewer went on Fox and declared the Gang of 8’s illusory “border surge” a “victory for Arizona.” Within hours she’d posted a s—eating tweet declaring, “For the record, I have not endorsed the Gang of 8 #immigration bill.”** Perhaps she’d heard from supporters in the interim–supporters she’d been counting on to contribute to the “Stand with Jan” campaign for “secure borders.”

Instant citizen blowback obviously can have an effect, at least in prompting phony shows of concern. Luckily, a phony show of concern is exactly what “Enforcement First” opponents of the Gang need at this point, which is why if you are one of them it’s important for you to call your Senators and keep calling. Here are the Senate phone numbers. The very efficient U.S. Capitol switchboard is 202 224 3121, if you can get through. ….


** — Brewer also posted a letter in which she seems confused about the actual posture of the legislation, arguing that the Senate plan is “encouraging” in its provision for additional Border patrol agents, but then asserting

Congress must require that the border-security provisions are mandated on the front end rather than forgotten on the back end.

Well, yeah …. If the Senate’s bill actually mandated border security provison on the front end–i.e. before legalization–I might support it too! But that’s exactly what Sen. Schumer’s Democrats refuse to do.

Is Brewer clueless or does she think her supporters are clueless? I’m told by Arizonans this is an ongoing mystery. …

Mickey Kaus