Democrats Shield Obama’s Amnesty From Debate, For Now

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

All 46 Democratic senators voted Feb. 3 to block a debate on President Obama’s unpopular November amnesty, so escalating the increasingly contentious fight over immigration prior to the 2016 primaries.

Without at least three Democrats, Republicans could not reach the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to start a debate, but GOP senators promised to keep up the anti-amnesty pressure.

“Senate Democrats put politics before our national security by refusing to even move forward on debating important legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton announced.

Democrats “are lining up in unison to protect their party, and the interest groups they rely upon, rather than the constituents they represent,” said a statement from Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Before the November election, seven Democrats distanced themselves from Obama’s amnesty, which would provide work permits to 5 million illegals, and largely end repatriation of the 12 million illegals in the United States.

Those Democratic senators, including Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Indian’s Joe Donnelly, and Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, all voted to shield Obama’s amnesty from debate and from popular opinion.

One Republican, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, voted against the anti-amnesty measure. Nevada’s electorate includes an increasing number of Democratic-leaning first generation Latinos.

Late in the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against the bill, leaving a final tally of 51 yeas to 48 nays. Under the Senate’s debating rules, his maneuver allows him to bring the anti-amnesty bill up for another vote.

McConnell may try to restart the debate if, as is expected, a Texas judge declares Obama’s amnesty to be unlawful. That would increase public pressure on several Democrats to vote against the unpopular amnesty.

McConnell may also offer a deal to Democratic senators to get their support for language that would only block Obama’s November 2014 amnesty for five million illegals, not his prior June 2012 amnesty for roughly 650,000 younger illegals.

More importantly, the increasingly acrimonious immigration debate is pushing the immigration issue towards the center of the 2016 election.

Since early 2013, GOP leaders have tried to make an immigration deal with the Democratic leaders that would push the immigration off the political table prior to the 2016 election, where Latinos will comprise up to 10 percent of the electorate.

For example, neither McConnell nor House Speaker John Boehner have tried to use the unpopularity of Obama’s November amnesty to win swing-voters and Democrats over to the GOP. That’s partly because many GOP donors and leaders support amnesty and want to bring more foreign workers into the United States.

But the GOP base voters and swing-voters don’t want to see their wages and jobs threatened by another amnesty, and they strongly oppose policies that allow foreign workers to replace Americans.

Currently, only 44 percent of Americans adults work full-time, according to Gallup. Sixteen percent are underemployed and 7 percent are unemployed. That’s only slightly better than in 2010, according to Gallup.

Since 2009, up to 13 million foreigners have joined the U.S. workforce, helping to force down wages, boost profits and displacing millions of working-age Americans throughout the United States. In November 2014, one in every five U.S. jobs was held by a foreign-born worker, up from one-in-six jobs in January 2010, according to federal data highlighted by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Only seven percent of Americans want a higher rate of immigration, according to a new Gallup poll.

In January, the GOP’s base-voters blocked a leadership-backed a 10-year, $10 billion border security bill that critics say would not have boosted border security. In January, the voters forced the leaders to pass anti-amnesty measure through the House.

The anti-amnesty measure funds DHS until October, but bars any spending to implement Obama’s 2012 or 2014 amnesties. Unless Congress passes a new funding bill, DHS won’t be able to cut paychecks after Feb. 27. However, law enforcement employees will remain on duty at the borders, seaports and airports.

That’s the anti-amnesty measure that Democrats blocked in the Senate Feb. 3.

Prior to the vote, Democrats ratcheted up the rhetoric to keep their senators in line, to steer media coverage, and also to intimidate GOP senators.

The American people should not have “to pay a ransom to make sure the Homeland Security Department is fully funded,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told a small group of reporters at a D.C. press conference prior to the vote.

Any talk of compromise would be like negotiating “after hostages are taken,” Schumer told The Daily Caller.

“We’re happy to have the debate on those [immigration] issues” in a separate bill, he said, adding that “the American people don’t want a gun held to their heads.”

“This department and the nation are being taken hostage,” said Delaware Sen. Tom Carper.

“With terrorist threats all around us, they’re willing to shut down homeland security,” claimed Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

“The Republicans are willing to play politics with our safety,” claimed Masachussetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The GOP’s actions are threatening to cut funding for the department’s effort to control cyberterrorism, which is “as dangerous as nuclear weapons,” New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said.

TheDC asked the senators at the press conference if they would oppose a compromise that would help more Americans get jobs instead of foreign workers. Most declined to comment, but Shaheen said that amnesty issue should be debated in an immigration bill, not the DHS funding bill.

Schumer was more aggressive, saying “we’re happy to have the debate on those issues…the issue is do you negotiate after hostages are taken?”

Schumer insisted that the Senate’s 2013 immigration bill, which is now defunct, is a valid compromise.

He led the effort to get the 2013 bill through the Senate. His bill would have doubled the inflow of immigrants and guest-workers, and it died when the GOP leadership refused to bring it up for a vote.

Schumer’s amnesty bill was killed politically in June 2014, when Virginia’s anti-amnesty primary voters ejected the Republicans’ pro-amnesty leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, and nominated anti-amnesty Rep. Dave Brat for the Seventh District seat.

Follow Neil on Twitter