Sunday, May 28, 2006

House members getting the message on immigration.

Immigration: A great A1 article from Washington Post where the royalty of the Senate who ignored the voters while the House who are closer to the people are getting a clear message about this amnesty bill.

Republican House members facing the toughest races this fall are overwhelmingly opposed to any deal that provides illegal immigrants a path to citizenship -- an election-year dynamic that significantly dims the prospects that President Bush will win the immigration compromise he is seeking, according to Republican lawmakers and leadership aides. The opposition spreads across the geographical and ideological boundaries that often divide House Republicans, according to interviews with about half of the 40 or so lawmakers whom political handicappers consider most vulnerable to defeat this November. At-risk Republicans -- from moderates such as Christopher Shays in suburban Connecticut and Steve Chabot in Cincinnati to conservative J.D. Hayworth in Arizona -- said they are adamant that Congress not take any action that might be perceived as rewarding illegal behavior.
The brick mailings worked.
The nearly united front of Republicans from the most competitive districts against Bush's approach to immigration underscores the difficulties the president is facing as he tries to coax his partisans in the House to embrace what he calls a "rational middle ground," along the lines of a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate by 62 to 36 Thursday. GOP leaders in the House are basing their legislative strategy in large part on how it will affect members in the most jeopardy this fall. Several Republicans said they are getting more bricks in the mail -- as part of a new grass-roots campaign promoting a fence between the United States and Mexico -- than letters or calls supporting Bush and the Senate bill. Most said 80 to 90 percent of feedback coming from constituents last week was in opposition to Bush and the Senate on the citizenship question. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will not allow a vote on a House-Senate compromise that does not have the support of most GOP lawmakers or one that would undermine the reelection chances of his at-risk members, aides said. According to GOP lawmakers and strategists, about 75 percent of the 231 House Republicans are steadfastly opposed to the Senate bill or even a watered-down version of it. Despite some national polls showing strong support for a comprehensive solution of the sort favored by Bush, nearly every GOP lawmaker interviewed for this article said the House plan to secure the borders and enforce existing immigration laws is unquestionably the safer political stand in his or her district. Many Democrats from vulnerable districts say the same thing, although the Democratic Caucus as a whole is more sympathetic to a Senate-style compromise. Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) said he told White House officials, who keep citing polls showing wide support for the Bush approach, that "they must not be polling anyone in the 2nd District."
The House members pointed out what is the main difference between them and the Senate.
Keller, like most House Republicans in tough races this year, has a small percentage of Hispanics living in his district, which strategists said makes it easier to reject a broad compromise. Many senators, by contrast, represent more diverse populations and are therefore more sensitive to the concerns of Hispanics. Moreover, only one-third of senators face reelection this fall, so it is easier for them to ignore the short-term Republican politics, which are dominated by concerns about any program that resembles amnesty for illegal immigrants. "House members' elections are not periods with us, they're just commas," said Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.). "We keep our finger on the public pulse all the time, not just every six years." Gutknecht, who represents a southern Minnesota district that is 93 percent white, rejected claims by McCain and others that it would be disastrous if Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, failed to strike a compromise this year. "It would give the administration time to demonstrate they are serious that they can defend the law," he said.
This is one of the many ways the Senate put the House and the GOP in general in a bad situation.
Shays, who represents an upscale, largely white swing district in Connecticut, said he informed GOP leaders of his opposition to Bush's path to citizenship after talking to local voters in a recent 18-stop tour. If anything, voters are growing more "adamant" in their opposition, he said. In an interview, he proposed allowing illegal immigrants a chance to stay and work but not become citizens, which many senators said would be a deal-killer. This highlights the hurdles to a compromise. House Republicans appear inalterably opposed to any bill that paves the way for citizenship. They plan to name representatives to the House-Senate conference committee who share this view. They will fight for the security-only approach and are prepared to walk away from the conference if they don't get their way, according to GOP leadership aides. On the other side, the fragile Senate coalition that passed a more comprehensive bill is held together by a common belief that it would be unwise and unworkable to deal with the borders only and not solve the problem of what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants living here today. The coalition will crumble if the House Republicans prevail, according to senators and aides. The White House, led by Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, has been lobbying House members to soften their position and expects that more moderate lawmakers would eventually side with Bush.
Wonderful, the blinders are on and riding the party to disaster.
Some Democrats are feeling similar pressure. When the House voted on its get-tough bill that also made illegal immigration a felony, 13 of the 17 Democratic incumbents who face tough races sided with Republicans. "The folks I represent in Georgia are sick and tired of the fact that nothing's been done to stem the tide of illegal immigration," said Rep. John Barrow, who dismissed the Senate bill as "amnesty-light -- no matter what they try to call it." Still, many House Democrats are open to a Senate-style settlement. Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.), a top Democratic target who represents a district so competitive it is known as the "bloody 8th," warned that if House Republicans do not oppose guest workers, temporary workers and anything "that looks like amnesty," they could very well lose the House. "There are lot of people on Capitol Hill that have no clue what November is going to bring them on immigration," he said. "It could be something like a tidal wave that could benefit the Democrats simply because Republicans don't do the right thing. To survive through November, the folks up here [on Capitol Hill] are really going to have to understand the passion behind this."

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