Tuesday, July 18, 2006

GOP's Immigration War Room

The Hill reports that House Republicans have organized a 'virtual war room' to coordinate efforts on immigration and influence the immigration message:

Republicans establish immigration war room
By Patrick O’Connor

House Republicans have organized a communications “war room” to push their enforcement-first strategy on immigration reform during the remaining months of the 109th Congress.

The communications plan will help GOP leadership staff coordinate the party’s message in local media markets during the next round of field hearings, in August.

After the hard-fought victory of GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s special election, House Republicans have increasingly hung their hopes of retaining the majority on their unwillingness to compromise on enforcement-first immigration reform.

But their emphasis on immigration this election season only serves to create more expectation among voters that Congress should approve a reform bill before the November elections.

It's quite true that Republicans are raising expectations on immigration. One might even say that they are betting the House on it.

House negotiators continue to insist that Congress address border and workplace enforcement before moving legislation to expand the country’s guest-worker programs or deal with the laborers already here illegally, as the Senate bill aims to do.

House Republicans are expected to keep pressuring their Senate colleagues on this issue during the monthlong summer break. Aides to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) are even planning for the Speaker to make a trip to the border during the recess to push increased enforcement, a Republican aide said.

...As part of the new media strategy, House Republicans will continue their efforts to label the Senate’s comprehensive overhaul as a Democratic plan — specifically the “Reid-Kennedy” bill, a reference to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who co-wrote a reform bill with Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

In addition, GOP lawmakers and staff have stepped up their criticism of Democratic leaders in the House for what they portray as a failure of those leaders to articulate a unified position on the immigration issue.

“This debate was taking place in the Washington, D.C., vacuum,” said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “We think it was being inaccurately reported as a House approach versus a Senate approach. [The Senate legislation] was essentially a bill passed by a coalition of Senate Democrats.”

Dumb puns aside, this is a further indication of just how important the immigration issue is to House leadership. The House GOP has put itself in a situation where they MUST enact a bill. That will weaken their negotiating position with the Senate, but probably not enough to matter. The House has the advantage of having the 'Least Common Denominator' bill. That is, pretty much everything that's in their bill is also in the Senate measure. If all else fails, both sides are likely to agree on that.

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