“The introduction of this thoughtful new House immigration reform bill brings us one step closer to getting a bill signed into law in the coming months. The bill is a good one, incorporating the best of what the Senate passed, and constructive ideas from House Republicans. That the Democrats could have introduced a bill with so many ideas from the other side, at this tense and difficult moment, is itself a sign of the momentum immigration reform has in Congress right now. We are closer to a deal than at any point since Senators McCain and Kennedy began this process in 2005, and I am optimistic Congress will finish the job in the coming months.“
“La introducción de este nuevo y bien pensado proyecto de ley de inmigración nos lleva un paso más cerca a una inminente confirmación de que se convierta en la nueva ley de reforma migratoria en los próximos meses. Es una buena propuesta de ley, ya que incorpora lo mejor de lo que se aprobó en el Senado, junto con ideas constructivas de republicanos en la Cámara Baja. El hecho de que los demócratas hayan podido presentar un proyecto de ley con muchas ideas del otro bando, justo en estos tiempos difíciles, es ya de hecho una señal del buen impulso que lleva la ley de reforma migratoria en el congreso en estos momentos. Estamos más cerca a un trato de lo que estábamos cuando los senadores McCain y Kennedy comenzaron este proceso en el 2005 y me mantengo optimista de que el congreso va a terminar su trabajo en los próximos meses.”
Be sure to see my recent op-ed arguing the two parties are much closer to a deal on immigration reform than many realize. Also see our discussion two weeks ago with immigration reform experts Frank Sharry and Tamar Jacoby with insight into the current state of play.
The Shutdown Endgame: Getting to a Budget Deal, Protecting Our Democracy
To understand how we get out of the shutdown mess, it is important to understand how we got here. The central cause of the current government shutdown is the House Republican’s inability to propose a realistic budget and pass any appropriations bills this year. The struggles they had in making their numbers add up in their budget process this spring, well documented here by Politico’s David Rogers, left the House without a fiscal consensus they could use to negotiate with the Senate. This, in turn, led the House to take the remarkable step of boycotting a budget conference committee, the normal process our government has used for hundreds of years to get to a budget which allows the US government to operate.
The government shut down on October 1st because Congress has not passed a budget to fund it for the fiscal year 2014. This shutdown really isn’t about Obamacare. Until the House drops its opposition to negotiating with the Senate to produce a budget, the current brinksmanship will continue. There is only one way to remove the threat of a shutdown – the House must return to the budget negotiating table and help provide the country with a budget to fund our government next year. Anything short of that is just political noise. And thus the President and Senator Reid are right to object to negotiations over anything other than doing what is mandated by the Constitution and funding the government.
The remarkable reluctance of the GOP to enter into serious budget negotiations to resolve the crisis can be explained in two ways. One, they know it removes their leverage, forces them to confront their own internal fiscal incoherence, and is likely to a result in a budget not palatable to many House Republicans. Second, it brings to a premature end another of their strategic goals of this conflict: to change the Constitutional arrangements of our government to give the minority party more power than it is currently allocated. The clear evidence that this is a strategic goal of the Republicans is the list of issues, which go far beyond the new health care law, Speaker Boehner floated as ones he wanted negotiated to raise the debt ceiling. None of these many proposals - environmental, regulatory, health - involve, of course, mechanisms for ending the budget stalemate (go to the end of the piece for a full list).
Every one of these proposals has passed the Republican House, and then has been rejected by the Senate. Thus in our system of governing, the Congress had rejected them, and the minority party failed to get its way. By using the threat of economic catastrophe as a way of reconsidering ideas already defeated in our democratic process, the House Republicans are attempting to create a new system of legislating which would allow their defeated ideas to pass the Senate (which had already rejected them) and be signed into law. And it was not just one issue they were trying to re-litigate but dozens – their entire domestic agenda in other words.
Given all this the responsible path for the President and the Senate is to call the House Republicans to an immediate budgetary conference committee and begin negotiating the only thing that will remove the threat of a shutdown – an actual budget for the United States government. Once the Committee convenes, the two chambers should pass a two month Continuing Resolution to keep the government open until a final budget is negotiated. All other negotiations – over partial CRs, debt ceiling, etc – are tabled.
The President has an extraordinary obligation to proceed in this way. He cannot allow one party to decide not to participate in the age old process our democracy has created for funding its government. He cannot allow a minority party to unilaterally, extra-Constitutionally, dictate the terms of how our democracy will work. He cannot allow the country to be governed this way. It weakens our democracy and our national security, is terribly expensive and unsettling to global markets. And perhaps worst of all, in a time of great global challenge it sends a signal to the world that the world’s most important democracy is itself having a terrible time making democracy work at home. In that sense it not just undermines our democracy, but undermines and weakens the global movement to bring more political freedom and opportunity to people throughout the entire world.
My hope is that the President stands firm in the coming days. There is much at stake in this fight. His focus should be clear: re-open our government, negotiate a budget deal, and protect our democracy. Reject half-steps or pointless negotiations. Do the right thing, and we will all benefit.
According to press accounts, Speaker Boehner is considering the following in his negotiations over raising the debt ceiling: a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act, a “fast-track” tax reform authority, Keystone XL Pipeline construction, an overhaul of Dodd-Frank regulation, more offshore oil drilling, more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands, suspending the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate carbon emissions , rolling back regulations on coal ash, elimination of a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, elimination of mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limiting medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for Medicare, and repeal of the Public Health Trust Fund.
Confrontation and Crisis will Create New Millenial Era Civic Ethos
Depending on one’s partisan leanings, the desire of House Republicans to shut down the federal government if the Democrats don’t agree to repeal ObamaCare may seem to be either a courageous ideological stand or a kamikaze mission sure to destroy its proponents, if not the country. However, from a generational perspective it is not only a predictable but a necessary step in the country’s search for a new consensus on the role and size of government.
Nor is it coincidental that the current confrontation is coming to a head just as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is about to be implemented nationwde. The roles that the legislation assigns to the federal government, states and individuals in securing every citizen access to medical insurance is such a departure from the existing civic ethos it has become the touchstone for the debate about the nation’s civic ethos in the Millennial Era. Yet, ironically, the law everyone wants to argue about actually provides a blueprint to any politician willing to go beyond their current ideological comfort zone and solve a range of challenges in ways that respond to the beliefs and behaviors of the emerging Millennial Majority in the electorate.
As finally passed by a Democratic Congress in 2010, ACA creates a relationship between the federal government and the nation’s adult population similar to the role Millennials’ parents have played in their young children’s lives. Parents pronounced rules to guide their children’s behavior with consequences (“time outs”) if the rules were broken. Similarly, the ACA requires each individual to purchase health insurance and provides penalties (taxes) for failing to do so, an approach the Supreme Court ruled lawful under Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. And, just as parents and other members of the extended community helped Millennials succeed within the boundaries of the rules they established, ACA envisioned a series of state by state health insurance exchanges that would help each state’s residents find the type of insurance they wanted at a cost they could afford. As those exchanges open for business in about half of the states this week, this new configuration of American democracy will be put to a practical test, but the fundamental concept is likely to be recognized in the future as the basis for a new civic ethos as distinct from the Reagan era of limited government as was the New Deal from its laissez faire predecessor.
History suggests, however, that the country must go through a crisis as bad as the one it is facing today before this happens. The New Deal was born out of the perils of the Great Depression. Reagan’s tough love solution of lower taxes and less government regulation required years of economic stagflation before it became conventional political wisdom. Today, neither of those ideas has proven equal to the task of breaking the country out of the economic doldrums of the Great Recession.
Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox. Members of the Millennial generation are as suspicious of large government bureaucracies as any libertarian but as dedicated to economic equality and social justice as any liberal. To resolve the crisis, the GOP should embrace ObamaCare as a great example of how government can encourage individual responsibility and accountability and Democrats should sign up for President Obama’s commitment to creating a smarter, smaller less bureaucratic government. Only when the crisis becomes so bad that a few brave leaders break out of their ideological bunkers and discover a new civic ethos that embodies both collective action and individual responsibility will the Millennial Era civic ethos emerge from the chaos created by a Congress so out of step with the beliefs and behaviors of the future leaders of the country.
With a good part of the federal government now closed for business, the pathologies driving it are too obvious to ignore. The diagnosis begins with the fact that there is no partisan argument this time about overall federal spending. The White House and congressional Democrats have accepted the arbitrary cuts of the sequester process, despite evidence that they are slowing the economy. Instead, the rightwing of the House GOP is holding normal government operations hostage to a variety of demands tied the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare has been a festering focus of Tea Partiers since 2010, when its passage helped elect a number of them to Congress. Three years later, their continuing single-mindedness about those reforms has begun to look like a pathological obsession. Too strong? Their threats to close down Washington unless President Obama agrees to give up his signature achievement – and their deluded confidence that they can bend him to their will -- have been utterly unaffected by not only the results of the 2012 elections, but also by the prevailing consensus that their strategy will cost the GOP even more in 2014.
This week, the pathology spread to Republican leaders. Since Tea Party members make up less than one-quarter of the House GOP and an even smaller share in the Senate, they always need support from their more moderate colleagues and Party leaders to carry out their threats. Those leaders and colleagues have for weeks publicly opposed the Tea Party strategy – that is, until this past weekend. After months of being held hostage themselves to Tea Party threats of insurrection and primary challenges, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and most of their associates have now identified with their captors and adopted their worldview. In short, they’re suffering from a political version of “Stockholm Syndrome.” If they don’t recover quickly, much of the national government could remain closed for a long time.
This post was originally published in Dr. Shapiro's blog.
On Monday, September 30th NDN's MENA Initiative hosted an online webcast to discuss President Obama’s post-UNGA Middle East strategy in light of developments with Iran and recent events in Syria and Egypt. You can view the conversation on Spreecast. I was joined by James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter Magazine. James has many years of experience covering the Middle East, Russia, and the Arab revolutions.
“NDN applauds the new immigration reform bill introduced by Representatives Grijalva and Vela today. If we are to pass immigration reform this year, it is time for the House to get going. Our hope is that this thoughtful bill can help jump start the House process, and help produce a good immigration reform bill by year’s end.“
“Aplaudo esta nueva ley de reforma migratoria presentada por los congresistas Vela y Grijalva. Si vamos a pasar una reforma migratoria este año, es tiempo de que la Cámara Baja se empiece a mover. Esperamos que esta ley bien pensada pueda ayudar a arrancar el proceso legislativo del congreso en la Cámara de Representantes y que se cristalice en una buena ley de inmigración para finales de este año.”
Be sure to see my recent op-ed arguing the two parties are much closer to a deal on immigration reform than many realize.
Tue AM Update - News reports indicate House Democratic Leadership is planning to introduce their own bill next week. See this piece from the Greg Sargent of the WaPo, and this one from Politico. Possible that the demise of the Gang of 7 makes a broader debate in Congress more possible now. Dems are leaning in. Rs promising October votes. Things seem to moving now.
The basic thrust of our discussion last week with immigration reform experts Frank Sharry and Tamar Jacoby - where we discussed the state of play, and what was possible this year - looks even more spot on.
NDN applauds the creation of the US-Mexico “High Level Economic Dialogue,” which convenes today in Mexico City for its first meeting. The US delegation led by Vice President Biden includes Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, State Department Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Jose W. Fernandez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education Clay Pell, US Department of Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Jake Sullivan. On the Mexican side, participants include Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray, Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, Secretary of Communications and Transport Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Secretary of Tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade. The impressive convergence of such an all-star cast of high-level officials illustrates the importance and the priority both countries are placing on this new collaborative initiative.
Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto established what will be an annual cabinet-level exchange to “further elevate and strengthen this dynamic bilateral commercial and economic relationship” during their meeting in May 2013. Today’s dialogue will focus on three areas: competitiveness and connectivity; economic growth, productivity and entrepreneurship and innovation; and partnering for regional and global leadership. Prior to the dialogue, private sector members of each country will also meet to discuss greater coordination in business and education initiatives.
Echoing the President and Vice President, Secretary Pritzker stated, “The US strategic relationship with Mexico is one of our most important in the world.” While the United States often focuses on the security collaboration across our shared 2,000 mile border, many do not realize what strides Mexico has made in the last two decades. GDP has tripled and Mexico is now ranked twelfth in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. Meanwhile, Mexico has become US’s third largest trading partner and second largest export market. Bilateral trade with Mexico has quadrupled to $535.9 billion in 2012, and 6 million US jobs alone depend on that trade. Meanwhile, the US efforts to increase its border security regime have successfully resulted in a dramatic decrease in illegal crossings and crime on the US side of the border. This bilateral trade explosion has thrived although the US has strengthened its security blanket.
This meeting comes at a particularly significant moment as we approach the 20 year anniversary of the passing of NAFTA. Participants look back on the success of the trade agreement that led to such regional economic growth, but also to what lies ahead, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A senior administration official said, “Mexico is not just a leader in the region, a partner with the United States, but increasingly a global partner of ours.” On Mexico’s growth and reform, Pritzker has also said, "It's going to create continued opportunities for the two countries to work together, both diplomatically and economically."
NDN has written extensively on the importance of US-Mexico relations. For more information, see our report “Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico,” as well as our border and immigration powerpoint presentation.
I have a new op-ed running on the Huffington Post home page. It is cross-posted here:
GOP to Hispanics: Drop Dead Again, ACA Edition
For those Republicans worried about getting their party right with the new American electorate, I would be more than a bit concerned about the current attack on the Affordable Care Act. No group will benefit more from the ACA than Hispanic Americans. Estimates are that as many as 10 million Hispanics could gain health insurance in the coming years due to the new American health care system.
The Republican narrative to them this week, just days before the ACA kicks in? We are so committed to denying you health insurance that we are not just opposed to the ACA, but are willing to shut the government down, default on our obligations, and throw the US and global economy into chaos to make sure you don’t get it.
The ferocity of the GOP’s opposition to the ACA will be long remembered by tens of millions Americans whose families directly benefit from our modernized health care system. For Hispanics, the most underinsured portion of the US population, the material gains in health and well-being from the ACA will be greater than for any other demographic group. Estimates suggest 10 million Hispanics will be eligible for health insurance in the coming years. To put that in perspective, these 10 million are about 20 percent of the total US Hispanic population, and millions more than the 7-9 million Hispanics who could gain legal status under the proposed immigration bill.
This suggests that as the act kicks in over the next few years, and millions of Hispanic families sign up for insurance, the damage to the GOP’s brand for opposing this commonsense and powerful health care reform could equal or surpass the damage done by the GOP’s opposition to immigration reform. The math is simple here. More Hispanics are likely to benefit from the ACA than immigration reform. Most polls taken in recent years show that Hispanic voters care more about health care issues than immigration reform. Not a big surprise as the ACA will have a much bigger effect on the families of Hispanic citizens than immigration reform will. The potential for long term damage to the already damaged GOP brand with Hispanics here is huge, and lasting.
There is a precedent for House Republicans dramatically impacting the political alignment of thenational Hispanic electorate. In 2005 the House GOP passed the Sensenbrenner Bill, which called for the direct deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. This harsh bill directly led to the rallies and demonstrations we saw in the spring of 2006, some of the largest civil rights demonstrations witnessed in US history. Polling NDN conducted at the time found a huge shift in sentiment against the GOP because of their harsh anti-immigrant actions. In the fall elections, the Hispanic electorate broke dramatically against the GOP, going 70-30 for the Democrats even without the Democrats mounting any campaign at all at any level geared towards the Hispanic electorate.
George Bush’s able campaigns began a re-alignment of the Hispanic electorate towards the GOP. The Republican share of the Hispanic vote jumped from 21% in 1996 to 35% in 2000 to 40% in 2004. These gains were essential in flipping states like FL, CO, AZ and NM carried by Bill Clinton in 1996, and arguably the single most important component of the only GOP Presidential wins since 1988. These gains were undone by the virulent anti-immigrant politics of 2005 and 2006, when the Hispanic electorate shifted to about a 70-30 structural advantage for the Democrats, a margin we first saw in 2006, and one replicated in each of the last three elections.
As I showed earlier, it is possible that the GOP’s extraordinary opposition to the ACA could have an impact on the Hispanic electorate equal to or greater than this critical 2005-2006 moment when the GOP became defined as an anti-immigrant party. For the Republicans interested in the future of their party this should be very worrying.
Fortunately, the Republicans have two ways to mitigate – not erase - what is likely to be a catastrophic and searing event with Hispanics. First, drop the ACA hostage taking and work with the President and the Senate to pass a budget. Second, work with the Democrats to pass a good and reasonable immigration reform bill this fall. As I have argued elsewhere, the two parties are much closer to a deal than many realize. Given the enormity, and futility, of the mistake the House GOP is making on the ACA – Sensenbrenner 2 let’s call it – the urgency for the Republicans to pass immigration reform has never been greater. And there will not be another chance after this fall. This is it. Or it may be the way of the Whigs for the party of Lincoln, undone by the very reactionary racial politics that were ironically the genesis of the founding of the GOP a long time ago.
Note, Update - I've updated this piece a bit from its initial version, published this morning. While we know more Hispanics will be elibigible for health insurance under the ACA than are undocumented Hispanic immigrants in the country, what we don't know is whether more will gain insurance that will get legal status. While it is likely, I have softened that sentence above a bit, as we don't really know.
None of the changes the basic argument . This debate over the ACA is going to have a very impact on the GOP brand with Hispanics, and there are ways for the Rs to mitigate this damage, including passing Immigration Reform later this year.
Update - The Washington Post's Greg Sargent references this analysis in a new piece. And what remains most remarkable is that it is two of the GOP's most important Latinos - Cruz and Rubio - leading this effort to take away something so important to the aspiring Latino community. The desire of Cruz, Rubio and Paul to gain advantage in the GOP primary has left taking a position on an issue which will cost them dearly with Latinos should they be on a future Republican ticket.
Update - Stories like this in the NYTimes showing how minorities are disporportionatiately effected in the states refusing the ACA's Medicaid expansion will not help the GOP.
NDN and the New Policy Institute hosted long-time immigration advocates Tamar Jacoby and Frank Sharry along with NDN President Simon Rosenberg for an expert thought-provoking discussion on immigration reform. While they agreed that the timeline is uncertain, and the strategy has yet to be fully articulated by politicians on both sides of the aisle, they all demonstrated a rare undeterred optimism that a path forward to bipartisan immigration reform legislation exists and is within reach.
You can watch the video of their discussion here and a summary of highlights follows below.
Ms. Jacoby, a self-identified “R,” outlined where her party is on immigration reform now, saying the “fundamentals are better than they have ever been.” Throughout the last decade, most of the Republican Party has been against immigration reform, but now Republican leadership, including Speaker Boehner, Representatives Cantor, Goodlatte, and Ryan, “all are very invested in reform” and working to get something done. Meanwhile, virulent opponents of immigration reform like Representative Steve King (Iowa) have been marginalized and no longer represent the majority of the party who are really “grappling” with the issue and what they can do. Ms. Jacoby proceeded to address one of the most controversial topics of the immigration debate, the dispute over legalization and citizenship. She gamed out that through the approach, recently articulated by Goodlatte and Ryan, of immigration reform that includes legalization without a “special path” to citizenship, plus a Kids’ Act, as many as 7 million undocumented immigrants would be eligible for citizenship through existing channels. While immigration reform is a difficult topic and other issues have bumped it down the to-do list, there is above all a "lingering sense that it has to get done and party has to get to it."
Mr. Sharry, a leader of the progressive immigration reform movement, touted that the entire pro-immigration reform movement “left, right and center, has never been stronger." In firm opposition to the “conventional wisdom that we’re being slow-walked to death,” he affirmed why he is still optimistic. The politics of immigration reform have transformed as Arizona-style attrition and self-deportation laws were defeated by the Supreme Court and 2012 election, and President Obama approved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals last year. The Senate bill passed with a strong bipartisan majority in June. There are enough votes in the House “to pass a reasonably good bill…immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” and “our fundamentals are stronger than the House Republican dysfunction.” From a policy perspective, the majority of the US supports immigration reform and it would benefit the economy by leveling the playing field for employers and wages, decreasing the national deficit, and increasing innovation. Young DREAMers have put a human face on the issue, allowing critics to see the “others are us’es.” Finally, a broad diverse coalition of business groups, evangelicals, Catholics, agriculture groups, and progressive forces all support it. Mr. Sharry said he could also see the outline of a bipartisan deal on legislation, as long as the details do not include something like the SAFE Act on interior enforcement, and do support family unification and legalization with an opportunity for citizenship for the 11 million. “If House Republicans come forward with commonsense approach to dealing with the 11 million, I think we’ll get across the finish line this year.”
Mr. Rosenberg of the center-left NDN, whose 21st Century Border Initiative has focused on the need for smart improvements on the border that promote trade and serve the entire US economy, also laid out his version of a compromise. He highlighted that it should include border infrastructure and reengage the Texas Congressional GOP, including Senator Cornyn and Representative McCaul, who shepherded a border security act through the House Homeland Security Committee with unanimous bipartisan support.
Immigration reform is alive. It is time for both parties to step onto the path forward to compromise.