GOP Leaders Minimize Immigration Fight While Obama Pushes For Amnesty Funding

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama will use the Monday announcement of his 2016 budget request to help win the Senate vote that could block funding for his unpopular amnesty.

But GOP leaders aren’t doing anything significant in public to win the vote, which takes place Tuesday, Feb. 3.

GOP leaders are dropping the political ball, conservative advocate Dan Horowitz told The Daily Caller. “This is a lay-up. The president is putting illegals ahead of the interests of border security — that’s easy to message.” So the GOP leaders’ passivity sends a “message to the Democrats that ‘We’re just going through the motions to get the conservatives off our back.'”

The House-drafted bill would fully fund the Department of Homeland Security until October and also bar any spending to implement Obama’s legally questionable and unpopular executive amnesty.

The amnesty, announced Nov. 20, would hand out five million work permits, despite record low employment among Americans.

If Democrats stay united, the 54 GOP senators won’t reach the 60-vote threshold to begin formally debating the DHS bill.

That loss will increase pressure on the GOP to pass a revised DHS bill that funds the amnesty.

The pressure will come from Democrats, the established media, ethnic lobbies, business leaders and Wall Street donors, who see additional immigrants as an immediate wave of workers and customers, and a future wave of low-income Democratic voters.

Almost 90 percent of the GOP base — plus a majority of swing voters — oppose Obama’s executive amnesty. Only seven percent of Americans want a higher rate of immigration, according to a new Gallup poll.

Several Democratic senators, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, and Oregon’s Ron Wyden, likely would have their polling numbers damaged if they support Obama’s amnesty, Horowitz said. In November 2014, 66 percent of voters in Oregon voted to deny drivers’ licenses to illegals. Obama’s amnesty would grant licenses to illegals.

The Senate’s GOP leadership, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, scheduled the DHS vote for the day after Obama’s budget is released.

The vote will likely also occur before a Texas judge decides if Obama’s amnesty is illegal. The judge’s decision, which would likely block any distribution of work permits, could come this week, and could increase pressure on Democratic senators to support the GOP’s spending ban.

The DHS’ federal funding doesn’t run out until Feb. 27.

McConnell has focused on the expansion of presidential power in his opposition to the amnesty. “The House-passed bill we’ll consider would do two things: fund the Department of Homeland Security, and rein-in executive overreach. That’s it. It’s simple. And there’s no reason for Democrats to block it,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Republican aides declined to explain McConnell’s strategy.

In contrast, Democrats are using their leaders and advocacy groups to make coordinated emotional arguments against the amnesty-stopping DHS bill.

“I’m frankly stunned that Congressional Republicans are putting this country at risk by irresponsibly playing politics with critical homeland security and counterterrorism resources,” said a Jan. 29 statement by McCaskill, who is a potential swing vote.

Given jihad attacks in “Paris, Ottawa and Australia, the threat of ISIS and the proliferation of foreign fighters that return home radicalized, DHS should not be tied to divisive political issues,” said a Jan. 29 letter signed by 45 Democrats.

The GOP’s spending ban on amnesty is “the height of unfairness and hypocrisy,” Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters during a Friday press conference held by America’s Voice, which advocates for greater immigration. “The government should not use its limited resources to deport immigrants who have lived and worked here for years, who have children who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents, and who don’t pose a threat to our safety,” he added.

On Monday, Obama will likely reuse those themes. His budget-day speech could portray the GOP DHS bill as playing politics, undermining national security, and breaking up families, in time to shape media coverage before and after the Tuesday vote.

In contrast, the GOP leadership’s rhetorical support for the DHS bill has been minimal and unemotional, even though Obama’s effort to defeat the DHS bill would deny paychecks to border police so that five million illegal immigrants can compete for jobs against Americans.

On Jan. 30, for example, McConnell used a floor speech to call for passage of the bill, but didn’t use the terms “amnesty” or “work permits.” He instead offered a legalistic argument against against Obama’s authority to print work permits for the five million illegal immigrants.

“Will our Democratic colleagues work with us to defend key democratic ideals like separation of powers and the rule of law? … The House bill does two things — funds the Department of Homeland Security and reigns in executive overreach. That’s it. It’s that simple, and there’s no reason for Democrats to block it,” he said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the chairman of the immigration panel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, has focused on immigration itself in supporting passage of the DHS bill.

“Any Senator who votes not to begin debate on Tuesday is voting to sacrifice this institution — and their constituents — to imperial command,” he said in a Jan. 30 speech on the Senate floor.

“These unlawful workers [to be given work permits] will be able to take good jobs at the coal mine, the timber mill, the park service, the oil fields, the retail outlet, or the county office. There are already too few jobs and too many applicants. … Congress must resist the dangerous accumulation of executive power, fund DHS, and serve the interests of the American people,” he said.

“Is there any country in the world that says it’s appropriate for a business to hire somebody who entered their country unlawfully? What kind of logic can support such a reasoning?” Sessions said.

Follow Neil on Twitter