New CIR Proposal + No GOP Support = Wait ’til Next Year?17 May 2010
Some weeks ago, when we still expected Senators Schumer and Graham to introduce a bipartisan immigration reform proposal, Senator Schumer quipped that all he needed was a second Republican to begin moving on a CIR bill. Then Senator Graham backed out, leaving not a single GOP member supporting CIR. The situation has not changed, even after three leading Democrats – Senators Reid, Schumer, and Menendez – released their 22-page concept paper, outlining a strict approach to immigration reform that leaned heavily in the direction of enforcement. Not a peep from GOP senators since.
A new article in Time magazine explains why, mapping out the enormous changes in the political landscape that have fundamentally altered the prospects for CIR this year. (See Why G.O.P. Senators Won’t Play on Immigration Reform, by Jay Newton-Small, Time magazine, 10.May.2010.) The Time article concludes that it’s all in the headcount, noting that 23 GOP senators voted for immigration reform in 2006, of whom “five have since lost their seats, six have retired, one switched parties, [and] four more are retiring this year.” Moreover, as Time reports, the one-time leader of CIR efforts in the GOP – Senator John McCain – is fighting for his political life out in Arizona, in part because of his support for CIR.
According to Time, this leaves a handful of persuadable moderate senators on the GOP side, including George Voinovich (OH), Judd Gregg (NH), and Richard Lugar (IN), all of whom are retiring this year, two moderate senators from Maine (Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Rounding out the roster are new Senators Scott Brown (MA) and George LeMieux (FL), who seem unlikely to stick their necks out without political cover from more senior members. Without the support of Lindsey Graham, the GOP’s point man on immigration, it’s unclear what – if anything – the Democrats can do now to bring other GOP senators on board, before the clock runs out.