by Devona Walker
Congress is a mess. Due to the elimination of moderates and the ultra conservative hijacking of the Republican party, Congress continues to be a certified mess.
But here’s the good thing. Tea Partiers have so alienated establishment Republicans that they may be forced to work with Democrats to survive. Immigration reform is the perfect issue to test this premise.
On Tuesday morning, Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona announced a bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform. CNN quickly pointed out that immigration reform may be more political necessity than actual bipartisanship. But this is American politics not Match.com; there’s no need for romance — political necessity is good enough.
There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Of that, 233 are Republicans. Democrats have a 17 seat deficit. There are 51 Republican members in the Tea Party caucus (not all Tea Party-backed Republicans have joined the caucus). In the Senate, there are 53 Democrats, two Independents and 45 Republicans. In that governing body, Republicans have routinely used the filibuster to thwart Democratic legislation.
Until now, moderate Republicans have been consistently bullied by the right wing with the threat of a primary challenge. The list of moderate Republican casualties is extensive: Indiana’s Richard Lugar, Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter (who changed parties but was still defeated. Specter died last year), Maine’s Olympia Snowe (who retired), Minnesota’s Norm Coleman, Oregon’s Gordon Smith and Arkansas’ Ted Stevens just to name a few. For a full list, check out this 538 blog.
During the last political cycle, the right-wing took a beating. Tea Party spokeswoman Michelle Bachmann barely survived her election while Missouri’s Todd Akin, Indiana’s Richard Mourdock, Florida’s Allen West and Illinois’ Joe Walsh did not. During the fiscal cliff negotiations, the Tea Party successfully won the debate, embarrassing House Speaker John Boehner in the process. In the end, Boehner was forced to work with Democrats to avert the fiscal cliff. It wasn’t pretty. Boehner even told Sen. Harry Reid to go F%^# himself on his way out of the door. But the Democrats got most of what they wanted in terms of tax hikes for the rich and tax breaks for the middle-class.
Immigration reform is uniquely positioned as the ultimate test of this “pseudo” bipartisanship. The sane Republicans left in the party understand demographics and realize they need Latino votes in order to survive. The same thought process holds true for other issues.
Gun control, sans the assault rifle ban, will pass. Along with President Obama’s 23 executive orders — the most relevant being that he appointed an ATF Director — Congress will pass universal background checks. Background checks will effectively close the gun show loophole and drastically reduce straw purchases and the most common circumvention of state to state gun control effort, interstate gun trafficking. However, many people are against the idea of having a background check done against them – and perhaps rightfully so? Responsible gun owners who are purchasing and using their firearms legally may have an interest in some additional products that they could buy to accessorize their current gear like some of the best gun belts so that they can concealed carry their gun effectively and comfortably. Background checks are sometimes necessary, but for those with a criminal record due to a silly mistake, this can be frustrating. Some people seek out pardons Canada, or wherever they’re located, to be rid of their criminal record, which will make background checks and finding employment much easier.
About 40 percent of gun purchasers do not currently undergo background checks due to the gun show loophole. Why? Political necessity. On one side of the equation you have 20 dead six- year-olds and on the other is Wayne LaPierre. Roughly 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, and more than 80 percent of NRA members support background checks. Subsequent to the Newtown school shooting, we are seeing “bipartisan” support and action on this issue.
The Defense of Marriage Act will also likely be nullified. This will require a different sort of bipartisanship. The repeal of DOMA will be greatly aided by another Republican-led body, the Supreme Court. In March, the Supreme Court will hear the Prop 8 case. A ruling is expected by June. Thirty-one states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. I’m betting the Supreme Court will view it as a civil rights issue, in a 5-4 decision, and the ban will be ruled unconstitutional. This overrides all statewide bans and effectively nullifies DOMA.
The real horse trading will occur over a jobs bill and deficit reduction negotiations — which will undoubtedly put various “entitlements” and social safety net programs in play. Whatever happens, do know that immigration reform is the core issue that will make Congress work together i.e. Republicans actually do their job — and that’s ultimately a good thing.
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Devona Walker is the politics editor for The Burton Wire.