Marco Rubio has become the public face of amnesty, but the fate of Senator Cormyn’s border security amendment is a warning that it is the private face of amnesty that matters more than its public face. Cormyn’s amendment might have held up legalization until border security was in, though it probably wouldn’t even have done that much. It had the support of Marco Rubio, but was shot down by Obama.
That should have been a dealbreaker for the Republicans, but instead Obama got his way and there’s a good reason for that. The Gang of 8 is really a Gang of 9. And Obama is its ranking member.
“No decisions are being made without talking to us about it,” an Obama official told The New Yorker. “This does not fly if we’re not O.K. with it.”
Pro-Amnesty senators have praised Obama for remaining in the background because it would be politically inconvenient if he were to openly take a central role. But he is playing the central role.
Senate Republicans aren’t negotiating with their Democratic colleagues. Democratic Senators have become mouthpieces for the White House.
The New York Times described Room 201, a hidden war room operating inside Congress where Obama staffers determine what is acceptable and what isn’t. According to one Democratic Senate leadership aide, “When Republican amendments are filed and we are trying to decide, ‘Can we accept this? Can we accept this without some modifications?’ they are the ones who tell us, ‘This is quite doable,’ ”
While Senate Republicans continue to deny the existence of Room 201; it’s Room 201 that calls the shots.
A Rubio spokesman may sneer, “President Obama’s concept of engaging Congress is giving a speech that nobody up here listens to”, but it was Obama who got the final say on an amendment that Rubio supported. And Rubio has yet to drop out. It’s hard to call Obama incompetent while doing his bidding.
Obama backed what he called “comprehensive immigration reform” back in 2010. In a speech at American University, he laid out the same exact talking points of the current “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” plan, including the claim that the legal immigration system is broken, the promise that a comprehensive plan will begin by addressing border security and the fiction that illegal aliens will be “punished” by being forced to pay back taxes. The whole plan concluded with a path to citizenship.
That plan was loosely based on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, whose real authors were at the Center for American Progress, which Time Magazine described as Obama’s “idea factory”.
The plan that Pro-Amnesty Republicans have been touting was Obama’s plan all along, word for word. It’s even being sold in exactly the same way and Gang of 8 members often find themselves repeating lines from Obama’s American University speech. Every time you hear a Senate Republican pitch amnesty by saying that the legal immigration system is broken, you are hearing echoes of an old Obama speech.
Republicans don’t want to talk about Room 201 or the Obama factor, but as amnesty moves forward, the denizens of Room 201 and the entire machine of Obama Inc. are becoming less reluctant to toot their own horn; even if that tooting humiliates some of their compliant Republicans.
Obama Inc. is not satisfied with a legislative victory, when it can also humiliate and discredit its opponents. Obama has kept a relatively low profile on amnesty, by his standards, which include multiple speeches and threats, but that is coming to an end.
With amnesty, Obama calculated that getting through the legislative process meant letting the Republicans feel as if they can score a political victory, but any sense of Republican ownership of amnesty will disappear once the votes are in. As an Obama official said, “We’re not worried about short-term political credit. We’ll get plenty of it if it gets signed,”
Broadcasting the existence of Room 201 and the influence that Obama wields over the compliant members of the Gang of 8 is the first step in taking credit for amnesty. The idea that the public would associate a major amnesty with anyone other than the man in the White House was always naïve. But even if that weren’t the case, Obama is hardly a slouch when it comes to grabbing top billing.
Right now Rubio may be on every channel discussing amnesty, but once his part is played, it will be Obama on every channel taking credit for it and it will be Obama who signs the bill while surrounded by the children of illegal aliens and adoring cameramen. By then, Rubio’s involvement in passing amnesty will only be remembered by wonks and conservatives. And the reasons for it will be even more obscure.
It wasn’t just the 2012 election that stampeded Republicans into backing amnesty. Winning a majority of the Latino vote would not have put Romney in the Oval Office. Instead the real trigger was Obama’s unilateral implementation of the DREAM Act by executive order. Within some Republican circles, the perception was that Obama would implement amnesty either way and their only chance to control its scope and claim some of the credit for it was by getting out in front of the existing amnesty proposals.
It seems insane, but it’s also how Washington DC works. Given a choice between a series of piecemeal amnesties that Obama would control and own from start to finish… and an amnesty that they could have some claim on, a number of Republicans chose to back an Obama plan from his first term, rather than allow him to implement his own plan by executive order.
Amnesty is not about immigration reform. It’s about power and politics. It’s about the destructive way that Washington D.C. does business.
Obama succeeded in convincing a sizable number of Republicans that they could do what he wanted on their own terms or he would do what he wanted anyway. And now they are discovering that their terms are only what Room 201 says they can be.
This isn’t amnesty. This is Obamnesty.
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