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McConnell and Immigration Reform: Chicken and Waffles

First, I want to add my name to the list of those who resent being painted as anti-immigrant or anti-immigration reform just because we don’t support the damaged “Gang of 8″ bill being fast tracked by the Schumer-McCain wing of the Senate, the bill that is taking both the name and credibility of Marco Rubio for a ride.  Daniel Horowitz nails it in his RedState diary when he chronicles the hijacking of “immigration” and “reform” that apologists for this awful legislation have enabled.  I resent being scolded into defending the current (broken…I will give you that) system, which is a sieve of illegitimacy, pedal to the metal for our welfare state, and a drag on those who have come here seeking a path to citizenship playing by the rules.

The bill, as Ted Cruz says, is toothless on enforcement. It relies on a greater role for a bureaucracy which has been ineffectual at the least, and corrupt at worst. Marco Rubio’s best answer for this that the Obama Administration won’t be there forever.  Well, Senator, by then it will be too late.  The next administration can’t unring a bell where tens of millions already here illegally are irrevocably legitimized and any takers on the other side of our unprotected borders are green lighted to do the same.  I disagree with those on our side who are going “my way or the highway” on the Gang of 8 bill.  I also disagree with those who have chosen the low hanging fruit approach and are attacking those on our side who oppose the Gang of 8, rather than Democrats who have poisoned the bill and made it impossible for Republicans or conservatives to support.  If you are looking for scapegoats for doomed immigration reform, look to Schumer, Obama, and Reid, among others.

That brings us to the thin red line which is our house and Senate leadership.  John Boehner has said it can’t pass Congress, for whatever that’s worth.  Not the “dead on arrival” declaration you’d hope for, but not foreshadowing he’d once again forsake the “Hastert Rule” to pony up this legislation.  Still, Boehner has publicly said he wants this negotiated at some level, and wants some immigration bill, somehow, someway.  A congressional knock off of the Gang of 8 has convened, and is apparently content to use the same behind closed door approach the Senate has to create its own bipartisan monster.

That brings us to Mitch McConnell.  The Senate Minority Leader has sent mixed signals about the Gang of 8 bill, in the same week committing to not stopping it from reaching the floor but saying he is undecided about the bill. He also offers the ubiquitous, open ended “not undecided about the problem.”  He wants to own the optics of concern about immigration, but not the train wreck that is Gang of 8.

The path to opposition to this bill is to question the very real problems with its border enforcement, fast track in legitimization of illegals, and gaping holes in the firewall stopping a brand new entitlement class numbering into the tens of millions.  The cherry on top is the utter breakdown in the current executive branch insofar as enforcement of any laws except to the extent that they are politically helpful to the President, and even the criminality of breaking those laws to achieve the same end.  For the purpose of this piece, I’ll set aside the metrics of how legalization is a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to creating millions of new Democrat voters. Would would there be any Democrat support for this if that went the other way, or if it was even close to a wash?

Mitch McConnell will face token, at best, primary opposition in his Senate campaign in Kentucky in 2014.  He’s taken a page out of the Gang of 8 “what’s in a name” formula and hitched his reputation to Rand Paul, who is still riding the afterglow of his filibuster on drones. With this week’s admission by the administration that it indeed killed four American citizens abroad with drone strikes, Rand Paul’s political capital will remain a deep well from which McConnell and others can draw.

The “chicken” part of the waffles is that McConnell will oppose this bill, but probably not use parliamentary judo to kill it.  He can vote against it, but it can pass without him.  Classic McConnell.  Saving himself for a leadership scenario where he can be seen as a coalition builder, and not someone who knifes the other side of the aisle now to prevent getting anything done later as the Senate Majority Leader in his mind. He believes  he can wash his hands of the increasingly unpopular Gang of 8 for the sake of his re-election while still expressing support for some generalized concept of “immigration reform.”

With Paul, Cruz, and/or Lee, McConnell has the “good cop, bad cop” dream team in his corner.  Mark Levin opines McConnell is pushing the bill because he is enabling it via backchannels.  In 2007, McConnell worked to defeat that McCain-Kennedy, even on the heels of the GOP losing its majority in the Senate and the “voters have spoken” spooking that usually comes with it.  His rhetoric then mirrored what it is now, platitudes about needing to “fix a problem” but lack of support for what was then on the table.  He did not have the fallback of a Republican Congress in 2007 to kill it.  Nor was the “outreach” narrative burning as it is now.  But both bills are empty shells of enforcement and in the image of the Democrat party that uses them to cultivate what it knows are big boons to their constituencies and majorities.

McConnell seems on a path similar to 2007, where he bet and won on floor debate exposing the massive flaws with that bill, and dooming it.  The mass of research on this bill is as vociferous and damning as it was on McCain-Kennedy.  The left seems to be exploiting the outreach hobgoblin this time around, which has enabled Schumer to play Rubio like a fiddle, and still threatens to obfuscate the very good reasons for killing a very bad bill.

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