Here are a couple of things that won’t sell reluctant Republicans on the latest immigration proposal: “Ted Kennedy” and “2007.”
Memories of the late Kennedy, dubbed “the liberal lion of the Senate,” are hardly likely to inspire enthusiasm in conservatives. Nor will stirring recollections of the 2007 debacle, when conservatives banded together to defeat legislation that guaranteed amnesty, but looked unlikely to sufficiently strengthen border security.
Yet John McCain, a member of the Gang of Eight that is driving the latest immigration reform initiative, has highlighted the not-so-new components of the bill.
“It’s not that much different from what we tried to do in 2007,” McCain said on This Week. “What’s changed is — honestly, is that there is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle — including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle — that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill.”
On Monday, McCain made a similar comparison.
“If we do succeed, and I think we will, it will be a testimonial to Ted Kennedy’s effort years ago that laid the groundwork for this agreement,” McCain said at a press conference. “You will find that this agreement has very little difference from that of the legislation that was led by Senator Kennedy some years ago.”
McCain’s nod to Kennedy didn’t go unnoticed. “John McCain Pays Homage To Ted Kennedy In Immigration Reform Push,” was the Huffington Post’s headline. The Hill headline was “Immigration reformers credit Kennedy.” Conservative Twitter aggregation site Twitchy summed up the feelings of plenty on the right with this line: “Ugh: John McCain invokes Ted Kennedy to sell immigration reform.”
McCain’s comments are also undermining the case that Marco Rubio is making. Rubio has been doing an exhaustive courtship of the right, appearing on a wide range of programs from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show to Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. In these appearances, the conservative favorite has been trying to sell the immigration proposal as something Republicans can support — unlike the 2007 bill, which was ultimately widely criticized on the right.
Once the final legislation is written, it may become clear that this year’s effort is nothing but a repeat of the 2007 bill. But showcasing that will hardly make the legislation more appealing to conservatives.