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Thanks to a devil’s bargain between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, the ill-named “comprehensive” immigration bill will be on the Senate’s agenda once more. In the bargain, Mr. McConnell traded a limit on the number of amendments senators can offer for Mr. Reid’s placing the bill back on the schedule. Some “trade.”
In a climate where President Bush has signaled to Democrats that he will sign any immigration bill which crosses his desk, we suppose it makes a kind of perverse political sense that a trade would consist of granting pro-amnesty forces a shut-off valve for alternative proposals while also giving them another chance to ram their disastrous bill through the Senate. But as we have said before, in this immigration fantasy land, security never comes first, “comprehensive” means a rushed hodgepodge of poorly understood provisions and the flow of illegals into the United States magically shuts itself off. In other words, amnesty at all costs. People who favor commonsensical, piecemeal immigration reform have come to learn that neither party is the party of common sense when it comes to this subject.
Thus, thanks to the “bargain,” we’re now set for another Washington “do something” moment, in which the White House and Congress proffer a cure worse than the disease. Here’s a novel idea. Let’s expect the senators at least to describe the bill accurately this time around. This would mean that senators not only need to know what the bill contains. It would also mean that they would need to level with the public about the bill, starting with the most important fact. This bill amounts to a rerun of the 1986 amnesty, except with new buzzwords and new false promises for enforcement. Second, both parties’ leadership are responsible for it. Third, the supposed need for a “comprehensive” bill is a convenient fabrication.
Yes, we know, all of this is a tall order. But let’s start with Mr. McConnell, who, were he so inclined, could engineer the Republican minority and a handful of Democratic dissenters into a powerful voice for reasonable immigration reform. He has not. Instead, he waffles and omits the inconvenient.
On “Face the Nation” Sunday, no doubt realizing his precarious position, Mr. McConnell said, “There are good things in the bill, and not-so-good things in the bill.” He started with the bad: The “Z” visa. He then ticked off four supposed “goods”: an end to the visa lottery; an end to so-called chain migration of family members; and a new pot of money for border security. He didn’t mention that only a small proportion of the illegal aliens whose status would be changed by this bill are affected by the “goods.” Of the many millions who would be legalized, he said nothing. Of doubts that real enforcement would occur, he said nothing. Of the certainty that today’s illegals would be replaced by a new illegal population once today’s illegals are amnestied, he said nothing. For these reasons, the McConnell pitch fails the veracity test.
Then there is Mr. Reid, whose thick disingenuousness is best summed in the following remark two weeks ago: “This is the president’s bill, and we are doing our very best to see if we can help the president.” The headline Mr. Reid suggested in case the bill fails: “The president fails again.” To hear Mr. Reid, one would think that presidents write and pass legislation. Keep in mind what is Mr. Reid’s interest here: to appear genuinely committed to this bill while preparing to lay blame on an unpopular president if it fails. We’re not even convinced that Mr. Reid supports the bill, as he claims to. Slate’s Mickey Kaus noted him pat Sen. Byron Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat and a vocal bill critic, as he offered a “poison pill” amendment to kill the bill. The reality is that Mr. Reid comes out looking fine however this bill ends up — except in the eyes of people who recognize his cynicism.
Finally, consider President Bush. In a signal instance of the “do something” mindset, Mr. Bush now argues that the “status quo is unacceptable.” We’re glad to hear Mr. Bush agree after all these years, but his view is the inverse of sense. The truth is, Mr. Bush is desperate for a domestic policy “victory.” He dealt away his party’s hand by signaling that he would sign any bill. He now questions the motives of critics within his own party, suggesting xenophobia and hate when all ordinary citizens want is transparency and a chance to see what is being rushed into law.
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