Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2006
By: Amy Sullivan

GROWING LESS LAME BY THE MINUTE!....Okay, it's not exactly the best rallying cry, but I'm still giving it away, free of charge, for Democrats to use as their campaign slogan. Kevin got some grief last week for arguing that the immigration bust-up could be attributed to wily Democratic manuevers. But today's Washington Post confirms his story:

House GOP leaders had rushed lawmakers back to Washington for a rare December session to vote on the immigration measure, hoping to give their members an accomplishment to brag about over the long winter recess. But it was the deft maneuvering of Democrats that preserved the bill's most infamous provision, declaring illegal immigrants felons, and that provision has helped turn the bill into a political albatross for some Republicans, Democrats say.

The bill, written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), was passed in a matter of hours, nine days before Christmas. Just seven amendments were allowed to come to a vote, none of them fundamentally altering the legislation.

Sensenbrenner's committee bill included the felony provision, but when he took it to the House floor Dec. 16, he offered an amendment to downgrade the offense of being an undocumented worker from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The Democratic leadership pushed its members to vote against the amendment, and 191 Democrats did. Only eight Democrats voted with Sensenbrenner.

Imagine that.

Amy Sullivan 6:03 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Comments

I like hardball.

Posted by: Nemesis on April 12, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose I should admire this. But it's hard.

If 191 Democrats voted to censure Bush, or slap the insurance industry down, or kill bad bankruptcy legislation, that I would admire.

Posted by: America on April 12, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed.

Posted by: craigie on April 12, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Why are the Dems so afraid to take on Bush head-on? He is weak on terror and has bankrupted this country, call him out on it, you cowards!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on April 12, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Statement by U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas (20)

"It should come as no surprise that the sponsors and supporters of the unjust and impractical House immigration bill passed in December would continue to display poor judgment and lack of logic in trying to blame Democrats for their legislative fiasco. I suggest Republican leadership plead guilty to the misdemeanor of political pandering before the American people find them guilty of the felony of incompetence.

Of course, now that this issue has splintered their party and blown up in their faces, theyre trying to blame Democrats. We were not allowed a substantive role in drafting the bill, so how can we be responsible for what they wrote and passed? It is incumbent upon them, not us, to explain why they proposed this in the first place.

This reminds me of the defendant who was on trial for murdering his parents and begged the jury for mercy because he was an orphan. The dishonesty and deceit of the Republicans on this issue is breathtaking.

Posted by: Dave In Texas on April 12, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

In California three border crossings and you get room and board for life.

Posted by: Matt on April 12, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

That's playing with fire. You get a moderate Republican who will run an ad saying that Democrat X voted to maintain a bill that would make being an illegal immigrant a felon. Not so easy to explain in a debate or a 30-second ad.

Posted by: wary Dem on April 12, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Foolish, very foolish.

Mickey Kaus may be a demagogue, but he is right about the politics of this issue, and the immigration bill.

The electorate (as in people who actually vote) are genuinely exercised about illegal immigration now, and it is the one wedge issue that could bolster turnout among otherwise demoralized Republicans in November, as well as lead Independents to favor the GOP.

This is another way of saying that people *want* their government to take a hardline on illegal immigration, however mean-spirited, irrational, and unrealistic that is.

The only way I can imagine the Democrats' maneuver as a smart play is if they wanted to avoid the compromise bill coming to a floor vote and their going on record as supporting "amnesty."

But it sounds like the GOP may have been ready to deal. If that's true the Democrats are stupider than I even imagined.

Posted by: The Blue Nomad on April 12, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, come on. Before this bill, being in the US without the proper paperwork meant that you could be deported, but you were guilty neither of a felony nor a misdemeanor.

By the way, I use "proper paperwork" deliberately. Let's suppose that you are a journalist on vacation in Europe. You didn't originally plan to do reporting, but news strikes in the country you're visiting. You write a newspaper article. Cool, right?

But not cool if you're a European journalist in the US. Unlike Europe, the US requires a European journalist working in the US, even for a day, to have an "I-visa", even though a European businessman needs no visa. Under the amendment, the journalist would be guilty of a misdemeanor for doing journalism!

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 12, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well there is only 30% of you left that have not caught on yet,But what the hell ride that horse untill it dies.

Posted by: Rightminded on April 12, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

This kind of maneuvering, voting against your own beliefs about what is right in order to tar the other side with something unpopular (assuming it is unpopular), is what turns people off politics. If people are disgusted with the government in Washington and everyone in it, that isn't good for Democrats. It means that even if elected, they can't do anything.

Posted by: y81 on April 12, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK
The electorate (as in people who actually vote) are genuinely exercised about illegal immigration now, and it is the one wedge issue that could bolster turnout among otherwise demoralized Republicans in November, as well as lead Independents to favor the GOP.

Or, the electorate could be exercised about something completely different by November; especially if the administration continues belligerency toward Iran, illegal immigration could be the last thing on people's minds by then. Or the Democrats could spend the time between now and then building support for a different plan to deal with the perceived problem of illegal immigration, and it could be a decisive issue in favor of the Democrats. Or...well, lots of things could happen.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be all thrilled about this.

Not exactly the kind of spine I was looking for.

Posted by: Ringo on April 12, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK
This kind of maneuvering, voting against your own beliefs about what is right in order to tar the other side with something unpopular (assuming it is unpopular), is what turns people off politics.

The Democrats didn't vote against their own beliefs. They largely don't believe in criminalization at all, so they didn't cooperate with an effort to let supporters of criminalization that originally shot for the moon with felony criminalization a chance to salvage criminalization when that method proved unpalatable by downgrading it to misdemeanor criminalization, and therefore succeeding in killing criminalization.

That's voting for your preferences, and then nailing your opponents, honestly, for trying exactly what they, in fact, tried to do.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats think THIS is how the immigration issue will save 'em (as opposed to, say, defending marriage, the rule of law or citizenship), they will never understand why it doesn't.

Posted by: theAmericanist on April 12, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

On DailyKos;
DNC Chairman Howard Dean challenged Bush to declassify the Mobile Bioweapons Lab report from 2003 - if he's truly interested in "getting the truth out".

THAT is a better example of Democratic spine.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on April 12, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK
If Democrats think THIS is how the immigration issue will save 'em (as opposed to, say, defending marriage, the rule of law or citizenship), they will never understand why it doesn't.

Are you suggesting that the Republican proposal that was killed defended marriage, the rule of law, and citizenship, or are you stupid enough to not realize that killing it is the only way to make it politically viable for the Democrats to make an electoral issue out of proposals that would?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

You have to look at the whole thing in context. The Republicans control Congress. If they could agree, they could pass anything they want (See Prescription drug fiasco; FY 2006 budget).

But they wanted the figleaf of bipartisanship on immigration, but didn't want to curb their extremists. The Dems saw through this. The Dems opposed taking out the felony provision, and then the Reps voted for it, with a few Dems who put election above principle, and it may backfire on them.

If Frist and Hastert wanted a bill, they could have guaranteed they would keep out the felony provision and not significantly alter the Senate compromise in the conference. But Frist would not guarantee to Reid that the bill wouldn't be remade in the House's image, or give him a guarantee on the conference members, so Reid pulled the plug. Now the GOP is stuck with the House bill when polls show only 20% supports the felony provision and a majority want some path to citizenship for those already here.

The obvious compromise is path to citizenship plus substantial increase in minimum wage plus more border agents, and get to work on expanding Medicaid to low wage workers without benefits. This reduces the incentive for hiring illegals and raises the lower quintile.

Posted by: Mimikatz on April 12, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

What I want to know is, what's the support for providing a path to citizenship, not just for the working immigrants who're already here, but the ones who'll come next year? Or the year after that?

Are we going to tell the folks who're already here that they're fine, but their brother who's still in Mexico (or whatever) is SOL? Or are we going to finally demand that the nativists explain exactly why eleven million decent hardworking people don't deserve to come to the United States to make a living the best they can?

Posted by: Mithrandir on April 12, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Mithrandir (nice handle),

That's a tricky question; I suspect the support for a plan that did that would depend a lot on the details and how it was sold. I don't think any substantial support exists for uncontrolled immigration where anyone who wants to become a US citizen can simply walk in and get citizenship, OTOH, substantially liberalized immigration would probably be sellable if it included mechanisms to address the social costs, and credible prospects of improved enforcement of the laws that would then be in place so as to contain undesirable entry and immigration.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

I notice a peculiar lack of attention paid to Ms. Busby's tremendous display of Joementum yesterday, How Come? Here's my prediction - Repubs gain seats in '06. Bwahahahaha.

Posted by: minion of rove on April 12, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

I seriously doubt Micky Kaus is right on how immigration plays to Republican strengths come November. Yeah, it might help a few freaks and wackos like Tancredo. But I rather doubt many other Republicans are looking at it with the same enthusiasm.

Posted by: auto on April 12, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Pundits like Amy do a disservice to the cause of the Democratic Party by such poor analysis and even lamer slogans.

But what else can you expect from a pony whose only trick till yesterday was to exhort the Dems to be more religious and nutty?

This analysis is amateurish and belongs more in junior high school than here along with Kevin Drum's more reasoned and mature posts.

Posted by: lib on April 12, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

" Or...well, lots of things could happen."

And Howard Dean could have been president if only Democrats had properly educated voters about the illegal war in Iraq (which was of course a diversion from the real war on terror), and our public school system was properly funded (like say with as much as the Pentagon). Jimmy Carter might've been reelected in 1980 if only Democrats had worked harder to inform the American people that double-digit unemployment and inflation are appropriate sacrifices for the white middle class after their 500 year campaign of genocide and meanness to native peoples and the whole of black and brown humynkind.

Anything is possible!

Posted by: The Blue Nomad on April 12, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

So you are worried about Tiger Woods using "spaz". That's good. He shouldn't have. He's a nice guy, and that's demeaning language.

So why are you using "lame" to signify incompetent??

Just askin'.

Posted by: A lurker on April 12, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

If this is the extent of democratic assertiveness, they should disband immeadiately. They should simply cease. They are pathetic and irresposible. They are incompetant opposition and do not have the spirit to raise the slightest moral objection. They are politically useless.

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Where the republicans ever as bad as the democrats now? In thier darkest days I don't remember republicans ever being as so truely cowed as the democrats are now. They pick up thier check but they never turn up for work. Thier political zombies.

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not quite clear of what the good is in making illegal immigration punishable by jail time. It's sort of like making stealing cars punishable by having the judge had the thief the keys. If you throw them in jail for a year, you're guaranteeing they're going to stay.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty on April 12, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine that not being a Lame Duck Minority. With this type of unity there is a real chance that the dems will pick up 2 or even 3 seats in the house and possibly even add 1 additional senate seat. What a vision, what courage, what leadership. At this rate in 60 years the dems may actually be equal to the reps.

Posted by: daveyo on April 12, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Amy,

Maybe I'm just stupid, but I can't tell from your comments whether you approve of the Democrats' action or disapprove. Please explain.

Posted by: DBL on April 12, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

This is very interesting because I couldn't figure out how the Democrats were managing to persuade their propaganda organs in Big Media to make the immigration issue almost entirely the responsibility of the Republican Party. Turns out, they are both interested in the same things (e.g., a borderless America, manipulation and falsification of the basic facts of the debate, being a lot of sacks of anti-American crap, etc.).

I mean, it's Bush who wants amnesty. How in the hell did the Dhimmicrats pull off this trick? How are they able to skate by without answering to the black leadership on the issue of cheap Mexican labor? It sounds like quite a feat of deception and caca de pollo.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on April 12, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry. That should be caca del pollo.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on April 12, 2006 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry again. I should have said, "I'm a douche."

Posted by: Toby Petzold on April 12, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Democrat campaign slogan: "We're not as lame as you think!"

Good luck with that, Dems.

Posted by: Paddy Whack on April 12, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Did the Democrats know that hundreds of thousands of foreign citizens would then take to the streets?

Did any Democratic operatives or politicians highlight the provisions to illegal aliens and encourage them to march?

Did the use their "deft move" to encourage foreign nationals to agitate inside our country?

If so, did they cross the line into performing criminal acts?

-- Illegal immigration news

Posted by: TLB on April 12, 2006 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

How about

Remember us? The Democrats...?

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

How about

Vote for us democrats

We know we suck but you don't think you have a choice do you?

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Vote for us democrats. We know we suck but you don't think you have a choice do you?"

Actually I thought the message was, "The Republicans proposed making illegal immigrants felons. We think this is stupid." I think that's a pretty good message. But maybe I'm slow.....

Posted by: DiscoStu on April 13, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

I believe Barbara Steisand said it best when she stated "if George W. wins I am leaving the country". If more of the libs would take her lead, then there would be plenty of room for illegal alliens. I believe the key word is "illegal". There are legal alliens from multiple countries who have waited 5 to 10 years to become a citizen. Little did they know that all you have to do is protest in the street, then you get moved to the front of the line and made a citizen. I do like the bold leadership of the dems' on this one, whatever the reps decide we will vote against it. Wow what courage.

Posted by: daveyo on April 13, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Amy says: "I'm still giving it away, free of charge."

A quality I have always admired in a woman.

Posted by: Bob on April 13, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's called politics Amy. Frankly I'd think a writer for a publication called Washington Monthly would recognize that.

But hey, we could all play nice and wait for Jeb to take over at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. right?

Posted by: Davebo on April 13, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Daveyo,
It's tough being in power. You have to, you know, make decisions and stuff. The fact that the GOP can't hold its caucus together after the backstabbing antics of the last few years means that one has to pay a price: Democrats won't make it easier to pass bad bills. Sorry.

Posted by: DiscoStu on April 13, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

WTF?! I'm even getting namestolen on Kevin Drum's blog?

Losers. Get a life. Like me. The guy whose recent literary output consists of comments on blogs.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on April 13, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

DiscoStu
You are right "It's tough being in power." Since it has been so long since any Democrat has been in power I am sure that they have forgotten that. At what point do you anticipate your party actually having this awesome responsibility again?
Will you take back the senate or the house in 2006? Will you gain an amazing one or 2 seats in either chamber.
Thank you again for reinforcing that the democrats have been out of power for over 10 years and they look like they are loosing even more power each cycle.

Posted by: daveyo on April 13, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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