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Republicans are getting less than rave reviews for their performance last week in answering the latest immigration flashpoint: the thousands of Central American refugee children entering the country. In case you missed the fireworks last Thursday and Friday, Republican leadership was trying to figure out a way to respond to the humanitarian crisis at the border. Responding to that crisis wasn't something that hard-line tea party Republicans are interested in, unless that response involves deporting as many people as is humanly possible, and they were emboldened by de facto Speaker Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
After the leadership's first attempt to bring bills to the floor on Thursday failed, Speaker Boehner and his team just gave up and handed the mess over to the crazies. The result was two bills basically crafted for Cruz and his House minions, Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN). And, of course, the rest of the Republican caucus followed along behind, passing legislation that even the Republican stalwart Wall Street Journal finds deplorable.
The House GOP looked ready Friday to pass a bill to address the influx of children over the Southwest border, though not before providing another spectacle of internal disarray. The bill should have been a moment to redirect attention to President Obama's cynical handling of the border problem and to the Democratic Party's immigration divisions. Instead the GOP again gave the country the impression that its highest policy priority is to deport as many children as rapidly as possible back from wherever they came.
That's not just an impression the Republicans are giving, that's their policy. Nothing says that more clearly than the fact leadership caved to Cruz and turned policy-making over to Bachmann and King. Not everyone in the conference might have been happy with that, but almost all of them voted for it. Republicans now own the fact that their official policy is, in the words of Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) "Deport 'em all." They own that, and they carry it into November.
It might not be a disaster for them this year, in a midterm election where just one Senate race—in Colorado—has a substantial Hispanic voting bloc. But it sure as hell will hurt them in a national race in 2016, something Sen. Marco Rubio is well aware of. Rubio, a sometimes 2016 hopeful, tried to make lemonade out of the fiasco on the Sunday shows. Forget comprehensive immigration reform, he says, this reform needs to be done in stages.
"We're not debating what to do. We're debating how to do it," Rubio said. "We will never have the votes necessary to pass one bill with all those things. It just won't happen. So, our choices are: We can continue to beat our heads against the wall and try a process for which we will never have the support, or we can try another way that we could perhaps make progress on."
That's an interesting rewrite of Senate history right there, where there most certainly was the votes to pass comprehensive reform because they did it. All it would have taken in the House would be for Boehner to take the already-passed Senate bill to the floor. It would pass with Democratic and Republican votes. Or it would have, before Republicans decided they had to become the party of Deport 'em All.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:44 AM PDT.