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U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch.  REUTERS/Chip East
Get rid of the filibuster, win back the House, and THEN Orrin Hatch is irrelevant
Sally Kohn:
My friend John Fugelsang likes to say that the Democratic Party is like an S&M submissive who forgot his safety word. After the lame performance of Democrats in the immigration reform markup, I would say Fugelsang is being generous. Republicans are incredibly skilled at holding no actual power but nonetheless making wildly effective threats. Democrats on the other hand display the unique and vexing ability to have every political advantage and still cave on their own goals, more often than not preemptively.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would not be surprised if the modern Democratic Party’s strategy is secretly being bankrolled by Eli Lilly as a ploy to sell Prozac to liberals.

What has Kohn so upset? That committee Democrats shelved Sen. Pat Leahy's amendment granting same-sex couples the same rights as everyone else when granting immigration visas, while agreeing to another amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch to make it easier for U.S. companies to import workers from abroad.

The first is disappointing because Democrats should fight for equality, the latter because it makes it easier for companies to keep wages down by ostensibly importing lower-cost immigrant workers. And since Democrats have majorities in committee and the full Senate, Kohn argues, there was no need to court extra votes.

On the morality of those votes, Kohn is right of course. But not on the politics. Senate Democrats aren't engaging in a statement vote, a la the House's umpteenth vote to kill Obamacare. They are actually trying to make law. And that doesn't just require getting it through the Senate with that ridiculous 60-vote threshold, but through the tea party-controlled House as well.

Thus, Hatch's committee vote had less to do with getting his specific vote, and more to do with sending a message to conservative House members that even the conservative Orrin Hatch from Utah supported the bill. Of course, he doesn't actually support it. He's still threatening to vote against it in the full Senate if he doesn't get additional changes, none of which would be for the better. But that's why his vote was courted: The more conservatives they can bring aboard, the harder it is for the House to reject the bill.

And thus Leahy's amendment was doomed from the start. Not only were Senate Republicans threatening to blow up the bill over the provision, but it was a guaranteed non-starter in the House. Not to mention, the problem isn't that the immigration bill doesn't sufficiently protect the rights of gay Americans, it's that federal law currently discriminates against them. The place to fight that battle is over DOMA, particularly if the Supreme Court doesn't do the right thing by invalidating it. Get rid of that, and same-sex couples are on equal immigration footing. But blowing up Latinos' top policy priority, when Latinos are the most supportive racial or ethnic group on the issue of marriage equality, would be counterproductive.

If this was an exercise in political grandstanding, then sure, make the bill perfect and trumpet its purity to the high heavens. But this is an attempt at actual governance. And that requires compromises, many of which will be unpalatable. In other words, sausage-making.

If we want fewer concessions to asshole Republicans, the answer is simple: eliminate the filibuster, hold the Senate, win back the House. We do that, and Orrin Hatch and his friends in the House become irrelevant. Until then ... yeah, it sucks. But it's not a sell-out.

2:12 PM PT: Here's the argument, in short:

If the LGBT language is included, the bill is dead, LGBT couples are SOL on immigration matters.

If the bill passes, and DOMA is revoked, LGBT couples receive equal treatment under the law.

If the bill passes, and DOMA remains law, then LGBT couples are discriminated against.

Of the three scenarios, only one leads to non-discriminatory federal immigration policy, and that one requires that the bill pass without the LGBT language.

Originally posted to kos on Wed May 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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