Why Is Rubio in the Gang of 8?

Contrary to popular opinion, both in the national press and in the Republican Party, the conservative movement is split on the amnesty issue.  Just cast your mind all the way back to…last year.  During the Republican Primary battles, all of the conservative candidates were in favor of some version of amnesty.  The single hold out?  Mitt Romney, the “moderate.”

English: Former Speaker of the Florida House a...

English: Former Speaker of the Florida House at CPAC in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it’s a confusing battle space that has anti tax activist Grover Norquist on the same side as liberal Senator Chuck Schumer, and moderate, establishment Republican columnist David Frum on the anti amnesty side while traditional conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer is pro amnesty.  On the talk radio side the views are more what you would expect, Rush Limbaugh  and Mark Levin are reliably anti-amnesty, however Sean Hannity switched sides after the election and now supports amnesty (although he is still cagey about it).  Otherwise, things are more what you would expect from a conservative split on immigration.  The neo-cons are pro amnesty (think William Kristol) and the paleo-cons are anti (think Pat Buchanan).

So where does that leave Tea Party darling Marco Rubio?  Square in the middle.

Rubio is a real conservative.  I’ve listened to enough politicians talk to know when they are the real deal and when they are just using the conservative movement to advance their own careers  *cough* Newt Gingrich* cough.

Rubio has long been a supporter of some variation of the Dream Act, which are a series of proposals to legalize illegal aliens brought over as children.  Given that as children they didn’t really have a choice about crossing the border illegally; it’s fairly easy to make the moral case to anti-amnesty conservatives for creating some mechanism for them to stay, after border security.  But it was a shock when he joined in with a group of liberal Senators and pro-amnesty Republicans, the Gang of 8, to craft a comprehensive immigration bill.

First, it was a shock that after the disaster of Obamacare, any Republican Senator would try to make common cause on a bill that intends to be “comprehensive.”  For conservatives, comprehensive is code word for cramming as much crap as possible into a massive bill and hope no one notices what’s in it.  The purpose of comprehensive bills is to slide revolting items through the process that would never pass on their own.  Of course, in the case of the immigration bill, the sole purpose is to get amnesty through.  Everything else in the bill is a sweetener to buy votes for amnesty, even though there are plenty of real, needed issues that need to be worked on.  Instead, nothing is more important than amnesty.  Steve Jobs found this out while trying to convince President Obama to loosen up on the H1-B Visa program.  From the Wall Street Journal:

According to Mr. Isaacson, Jobs “stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned an engineering degree in the U.S. should be given a visa to stay in the country.” The president reportedly replied that this would have to await broader immigration reform, which he said he was unable to accomplish.

“Jobs found this an annoying example of how politics can lead to paralysis,” Mr. Isaacson writes. “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done,” Jobs said. “It infuriates me.”

A simple bill to allow graduates of US schools to get a Visa would enjoy large bipartisan support and would pass easily.   So therefore we can’t allow it until we make sure we drag 11 million other people along with them!

So now Rubio is stuck riding this tiger all the way to completion.  Meanwhile, his reputation will be marred by every little crazy line item that is stuck in the bill, such as the one creating a biometric data base of all US adults.  So why would he join in with the Gang of 8?  How could this benefit him?

Just a couple of ideas and I don’t know if any of them are close to the mark:

+             He knows it won’t pass and just wants to build up some “moderate cred” for 2016.

+             He’s inexperienced and doesn’t realize  that Schumer and his gang are taking him for a ride.

+             He’s extremely experienced (a former Speaker of the House in the Florida legislature) and he’s playing the Gang of 8 by trying to “cooperate” up to the point that he can exploit the weaknesses of the bill and then blame the Senate Democrats and the Obama administration for sabotaging the bill with poison pills to keep the bill from passing and keep it as a political issue.

I’m sure there are probably many more possible reasons, but I don’t see any way for this to end well for Rubio’s political future other than at some point he disowns the bill.  If he doesn’t and ends up voting for whatever monstrosity slithers out of the Senate, than Rubio’s reputation will be damaged.  To conservatives, he will be a traitor, and to liberals he’ll be a gullible fool.

Which pill will he choose?  The red or the blue one?

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No Cards to Play

This is my first post in a month due to some catastrophic computer failures at home.  First, in a ridiculous tugging match over looking at a One Direction video, my son and daughter broke my daughter’s laptop screen.  Then, my son’s laptop just died.  No particular cause, but my tech savvy brother in law examined it and declared it DOA.  Then, the home’s main desktop computer suddenly went wonky (sorry if I’m using technical computer language here).  It was unable to boot up and unable to restore at an earlier point.  Again, another examination by my tech savvy brother in law produced a post mortem; this time with no data retrieval possible.  We had fried hard drive for dinner.

However I did have a backup drive that was set to automatically update on a daily basis only…awww.  It turns out the automatic backup was turned off.  My backup hadn’t been updated in a year.  Not least among catastrophes, I had about a dozen drafts for posts that were lost.  So after losing 3 computers in two weeks, plus a year’s worth of data, my posting took a hiatus.  Particularly since computer time became quite a bit more rationed around the house.  And I do have a back log of amusing cat videos to watch…

And speaking of catastrophic failures, that means missing an entire month of posting on the “fiscal cliff.”   I suppose it’s just as well.  Any prediction that I would have made about how the Republican Congress should have responded would have been wrong.  A month ago I would have assumed they were rational actors who understood the lessons of the election.  A month later it’s clear that isn’t the case.

Speaker Boehner’s Plan B failed a test vote in the House last night which in a way was a proxy vote for whether the Republican Party was smart enough to survive and rebuild (it isn’t).  Republicans have somehow managed to figure out a how to take a bad situation and compound it to make it worse.

Just a couple of points:

  1.  President Obama had no intention of honestly negotiating with Boehner over the fiscal cliff.  Why would he?  The fiscal cliff is exactly what most Democrats, but especially the President want.  You get high taxes plus massive cuts in Defense spending.  What could Boehner ever have offered the President to top that?  By the same token, there were never going to be any spending cuts.  Again, Obama had zero incentive to offer a penny.  His best deal was already agreed to by Congress last year when they fashioned the fiscal cliff suicide pact.  Only, it was really a suicide pact for Republicans only.  Democrats probably couldn’t believe the deal the Republicans were handing them.  Meanwhile House Republicans were trying to finagle entitlement cuts from the President!
  2. Given all that, there was no, and I repeat, no scenario in which taxes were not going up, and there were never going to be spending cuts in this deal.  The fact that the Republicans refused to acknowledge this was one of their biggest mistakes and led to a cascade of other mistakes that led us to this point.  Remarkably, the conservative caucus in the Republican House didn’t seem to get this, and just as bad, the conservative radio complex didn’t get it either.  A sampled a fair amount over the past month (since I’ve been mostly computer-less lately I’ve sampled a fair amount of conservative talk radio).  They were very slow on the uptake, thinking that House Republicans actually had a negotiating position.
  3. Going over the fiscal cliff is not an option for Republicans.  That was supposed to be the one card to encourage coming to some sort of deal, but as I previously mentioned, Democrats want to go over the cliff. But if we actually go over the cliff, Republicans will get the blame on raising taxes on middle class out of spite because they couldn’t save tax cuts for “the rich.”  Two weeks ago that simply would have been the Democrat­­­‑MSM spin.  Now the Republicans are working to make that an actual fact.  And speaking of spin…
  4. The Republicans spun themselves into a trap.  They equated in their own rhetoric that any bill or deal that didn’t include all the Bush tax cuts was a bill to raise taxes.  Since they’ve been saying that for a month (“I will not vote to raise taxes, blah blah blah…”) they’ve fashioned a rhetorical trap in which they do nothing and allow all tax rates to go up, or they vote to cut taxes for some, which they regard as a bill to raise taxes on anyone not getting a cut.  Huh?  Even Grover Norquist doesn’t think that a bill to cut taxes is really a bill to raise taxes.  So why do the House Republicans and the Conservative Radio Complex do?
  5. The tax issue does not resonate with Americans anymore.  In this regard, the Republicans are a victim of their own success.  The modern conservative movement began with a tax revolt which led to the passage of California’s Proposition 13, which rolled back property taxes on California homeowners.  You could argue that without the movement that led to the passage of Prop 13, there would have been no conservative movement and no election of Ronald Reagan.  So over the course of more than two decades taxes were cut, culminating in the Bush tax cuts.  So now, Americans have been comfortable with our tax rates for over a decade.  They just don’t care about the issue anymore, and don’t think any future tax increases will touch them.

House Republicans should have just crafted a tactical withdrawal on this issue.  Since there was no way to win it, they could have at least minimized the damage by passing middle class tax cuts and minimizing the defense sequestration that is scheduled to devastate the defense budget next year.  As we learned from the Debt Ceiling talks, the longer you negotiate with Obama the more things he’s going to think of to throw in to queer the deal. The closer we get to January first, the more knickknacks and doo-dads Obama is going to insist on being thrown in. Any deal done now would require throwing in unemployment insurance; a condition that wasn’t on the radar last month.  At this rate, Obama will have Tea Party Republicans voting for Medicare for all.