The Corner

Phased approach–the obvious solution, cont.

Just got off the phone with a top Republican strategist who has always been friendly to a “comprehensive” approach to immigration reform. He is adamant that Republicans need to drop “the path to citizenship,” which is perceived as an amnesty by most people (my two cents: because it is!). Then, a bill can be strong on border security and contain specific triggers before a guest-worker program kicks in. Once the “path to citizenship” is out of the way, people will be much likelier to accept the guest worker program.

 

This strategist thinks Republicans must get the bill done by August and put it behind them. If it drags on beyond that it will become the GOP version of the crime bill circa 1994, which so hurt Democrats. The crime bill debate helped sink the Dems because 1) as it dragged on, it demonstrated that Democrats couldn’t effectively address a national problem; 2) it exacerbated a divide in the party between urban and rural Democrats. If Republicans are still wrangling over immigration in October, “we’re dead,” this strategist says, for the same two reasons: the lack of a bill will play into voter perceptions of GOP incompetence, and the divide within the party will only have been exacerbated.

 

With important Senate conferees toying with the idea of a phased approach, with the White House open to it, and with the politics obviously lining up behind it, this is the moment for President Bush to exercise political leadership. He needs to swallow hard and drop the amnesty and then knock Republicans heads together on the Hill to get this done. A phased-approach would give him a substantive victory, and perhaps make the immigration issue a political winner for the GOP as well…

 

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