The Corner

Might Get a Bill

I haven’t followed the immigration issue very closely, but here’s a take on the politics of the moment. We face a choice between no bill and some sort of compromise. If the Senate passes something close to what the president is asking for, any successful compromise with the House would have to be pretty substantially more conservative. That is, any bill that could make it through both houses would have to allow for more security and fewer temporary workers than the president has asked for. If that’s right, then our real choice is between no bill and a significantly more conservative bill than the president has asked for.

In strictly political terms, which alternative would be better for the election prospects of the Republicans: no bill, or a substantially more conservative bill than what the president has asked for? I don’t know the answer to this. But I’m guessing that the potential for a successful compromise (in a more conservative direction) is better than it may seem right now.

While many congressional Republicans may want to run against a guest-worker program, given their political straights, I’m betting many other Republicans of them would see a lot of advantage in a successful compromise bill (if it really was even tougher on security and allowed for substantially fewer temporary workers). It may be in the interests of Republicans either to pass such a bill, or have it be Democrats who repudiate something that’s tougher than what the president wants, but still within a range that looks to the public like a reasonable compromise.

So in this scenario, we may actually get a bill, and one that’s better than what we’re hearing about right now. All things considered, raising this issue at all was a mistake. But for all the political problems, I can see a scenario in which we actually get a compromise bill, and a compromise that is substantially more conservative than the Democrats want. The Republicans still have the numbers, and their backs are to the wall. Bad as our internal divisions seem, I think a solution that will be “semi-acceptable” to many Republicans is a real possibility.

I don’t deny that more political division on the Republican side is possible. As noted, it was probably a mistake to raise this issue at all, and any solution is going to alienate some part of the Republican base. Even so, the very intensity of the problem just might lead to a surprise solution. I’m thinking here of welfare reform, where Clinton’s middle ground proposals were pulled significantly to the right by a Republican congress, despite the wailing of the Democrats. Something like that could happen again, and be surprisingly acceptable to Republicans in general, and the country at large.

On TV, O’Reilly likes the speech and is willing to compromise, Malkin is standing fast for the House bill. My point is that any compromise that would make it through both the Senate and the House would be even more conservative, and therefore add to the number of conservatives in O’Reilly’s corner, thus producing a political win in the country at large.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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