Immigration Reform Trumps Gun Control

The approach to immigration reform in the Senate could prevent it from suffering the same fate as the gun control bill.

By + More
FE_130326_rubio.jpg
"Clearly he is the complete opposite of what Democrats would like to paint Republicans as – he's young and he's intelligent," says one GOP consultant.

Isn't it interesting how any time an idea from the left fails in Congress, it's not because lawmakers honored the will of the people or did what was best for the country but because some outside nefarious force bought the votes? So it was on Wednesday, when President Obama took to the Rose Garden to denounce senators who opposed the gun-control package as in the pay of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

NRA, Gun Owners of America and others certainly have some influence on gun legislation, but the left needs to admit much more went into the decision-making in the Senate. The wise lawmaker rarely gets too far ahead of constituents and never gets too far ahead at the ballot box. For the measures to have prevailed, at least nine Republicans would've had to get substantially ahead of constituents and the ballot box, and a handful of Democrats involved in what should be tight elections in 2014 would've had to follow suit. It simply wasn't going to happen.

The right should contain its glee. It was political reality – not necessarily an affirmation of conservative principles on Second Amendment issues – that carried the day. Despite all the brave talk of this being the beginning of the battle and not the end, absent another Newtown, we likely won't see gun legislation back on the floor before the 2014 election. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., won't put his vulnerable members in this spot again.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Immigration is Not Your Father's Gun Bill:

When the gun bill fell apart earlier this week, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., the Democrat who brokered the "compromise" legislation, blamed its defeat on misinformation from the right. That won't be the case with the immigration legislation unveiled on Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the bipartisan "gang of eight" that shaped the legislation, has started a website to explain exactly what the measure would do and combat attempts to mischaracterize it. Moreover, with the gun legislation, Republicans and more than a few Democrats needed to find a way to get to no. On immigration, virtually all Democrats and a substantial number of Republicans realize they need to find a way to get to yes.

Republicans know they got routed in the Latino vote in 2012 and that demographics suggest some of their strongholds – including Texas – could be taking on shades of purple as soon as 2014 unless the party can mend fences with this growing bloc.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

The hard right will squawk. Rubio's website will do banner business wack-a-moling the various misinformation certain to emerge. And Democrats will do their part to make the bill as unpalatable for them as possible. And let's face it: Nothing this controversial, this game-changing will pass Congress without a fight.

Keep an eye on Rubio. If his myth-busting succeeds, if his efforts to smooth over difficult matters with fellow Republicans prove fruitful, we could have reform in 2013 and, quite possibly, a front-runner, for 2016.

Don't Count on Sanford, but Don't Count Him Out Either:

It's not just the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) that has suggested in ads that Mark Sanford take a walk. It's also the DCCC's Republican counterpart.

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) pulled its already-tepid support for Sanford in his bid to return to the House of Representatives from South Carolina's 1st District. It pulled its support after Sanford apparently attempted to sneak into his ex-wife's home, using his cell phone as a flashlight.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

The Democrats have anointed a credible candidate, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, better known as the sister of comedy show host Stephen Colbert; they've credibly made an issue of the bizarre, ethically challenged end to his gubernatorial term, and Sanford has even shown signs of an intent to sabotage his own bid. 

But the seat became open because Jim DeMint left the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation and Tim Scott, the up-and-coming African-American conservative who held the seat, was named to replace him. Moreover, Mitt Romney carried the district by 18 points, and although the Cook Political Report has twice downgraded the race, it still rates as a toss-up.

All in all, I think The Daily Beast's John Avlon has it right: "[C]ounting Sanford out is a sucker's bet."

  • Read Robert Schlesinger: Why the NRA’s Manchin-Toomey Senate Vote Win Is Really a Loss
  • Read Susan Milligan: Kermit Gosnell Trial Doesn't Merit Nonstop National Coverage
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad