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EDITORIAL: Harry Reid’s favor factory

The nuclear option clears the way for a citizenship sale

- - Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The radioactive smoke has yet to clear from Harry Reid's detonation of the nuclear option, but the senator from Las Vegas is already using his new powers. Mr. Reid can rubber-stamp any name President Obama puts forward to hold a high office; Republicans have been cut out entirely. Cushy sinecures are handed out as reward for faithful service (and cash) to the Democratic Party.

Alejandro Mayorkas is next on the agenda for installation as deputy secretary of homeland security, the No. 2 post at the sprawling Cabinet agency. Republicans, notably Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, went ballistic in the summer when the name was first put forward. They knew Mr. Mayorkas had been under investigation for his suspected role in scams to sell citizenship in return for funding politically connected businesses. They thought it was not right to act before all the facts were known. Stripped of the filibuster, the minority's complaints won't be heard. But they should.

As head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mr. Mayorkas oversaw the EB-5 visa program, which grants temporary or permanent residence to foreigners who invest in a business in the United States. The program has tripled in size under Mr. Obama, and clever people have figured out how to exploit it. Terry McAuliffe, now the governor-elect in Virginia, set up an automobile-manufacturing company with Anthony Rodham, Hillary Clinton's brother, after persuading wealthy foreigners to write a check for $500,000 each. Investors then got a U.S. visa.

Even this crony arrangement wasn't enough for Mr. McAuliffe. Bureaucracy is slow, so he gave the immigration chief a piece of his mind. "Your agency is killing the project," he snapped. Mr. Mayorkas went to work to soothe the powerful Democratic fundraiser, meeting with him to discuss ways to speed the process. "We absolutely gave special treatment to GreenTech at the directive of [the director]," a subordinate of Mr. Mayorkas revealed in an internal document.

On its face, an investment in GreenTech Automotive doesn't seem to make good business sense, so the Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed documents and is looking into whether "other incentives" were involved.

As The Washington Times reported Wednesday, Mr. Reid appears to have asked Mr. Mayorkas to speed up visas for a company, over national-security objections, in Nevada. Mr. Mayorkas expedites consideration of visas, his promotion to deputy secretary is expedited. One soiled hand washes the other.

What's troubling is that one of the men at the center of the storm gets a promotion before all the facts are available. Mr. Reid's unilateral change in Senate rules eliminated the long-standing tradition of requiring 60 votes to confirm a nominee. With this check on power removed, Democrats are free to use the government itself as a favor factory, giving taxpayer dollars, citizenship and other benefits, to anyone with a favored left-wing cause. Even if no laws were broken, it's the sort of backroom dealing that invites corruption and abuse. Without a filibuster to ensure fair dealing, we can expect more of the same.