Saturday, May 20, 2006

Barnes: GOP Needs an Immigration Bill

Fred Barnes posits that the House Republican Majority will be lost if an immigration bill is not enacted into law. And since Senate Democrats will filibuster an enforcement-only bill, the House GOP must concede and pass some sort of 'comprehensive' bill.

Barnes spends some time arguing that the American people will punish the Washington GOP for failing to enact some form of amnesty. I'm not sure he's right about that. While Howard Dean would probably never vote Republican again, I don't think there are too many legitimate swing voters who will be really upset. I believe the polls saying that there is a majority in favor of enforcement, but I think that a position of 'do border enforcement now, see if it works, and then address the amnesty in a few years,' would sell. Plus, this IS a base election; the voters are too sour for there to be a high turnout. Therefore, an amnesty that turned off the base would probably lose as many votes as it could possibly gain with independents.

But I think that overall Barnes is probably right for the other reason he mentions. I think it would be one more demonstration that Bush has lost it. If the Congressional wing of the party rejected him on an issue that has become so high-profile... well, let's just say we'd have to drag out the Jimmy Carter comparisons.

And on another point, I think that the GOP really needs to start focusing on pork and spending. As I've said before, it's the one area where they can make progress with the base, without losing moderate Republicans.

Bush and the Congress can together push for a line-item veto (ok, ok 'enhanced rescission'), a balanced budget amendment, earmark reform and - most importantly - actual spending reductions. I've argued before that the White House thinks immigration is a losing issue for them, and boy, are they right. If they can finish some bill and move on to spending, so much the better for them.

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