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Trump, Republicans face immigration reckoning

The Republican Party's moment of truth on immigration is inescapable.Debate over the ...

Posted: Jan 11, 2018 12:05 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2018 12:05 PM

The Republican Party's moment of truth on immigration is inescapable.

Debate over the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children has turned into a pivotal moment for the GOP on an issue that has been heading to a boiling point for more than a decade.

"I don't see any other game in town," Sen. Jeff Flake said

The debate is matching various party factions against one other

Now, with Republicans in control of the House, the Senate and the White House, the party is being forced to confront its deep divisions over immigration, which threaten to compromise its capacity to provide coherent governance.

The debate is matching various party factions against one other and testing the willingness of the Republican base to accept a necessary compromise with Democrats that is certain to be portrayed by some as a moment of political betrayal.

It's no wonder the closed doors talks on Capitol Hill are so tense and contentious and President Donald Trump's every comment is so closely scrutinized.

"Everybody has their own franchise ... but somebody has to put forward a document, somebody has to put forward a bill," Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Wednesday. "I don't see any other game in town."

For Trump, the immigration policy debate marks a watershed moment. It is one of the first times that he has been required to show genuine political courage, to take steps likely to alienate his loyal voters, who have stuck with him through everything.

All presidents reach such a moment sooner or later, when the national interest, the requirements of governance and even their own legacies require them to expunge political capital they have spent years building.

Trump's improvised and shifting positions over the past few days on what he wants to see in the bill suggest that he has not yet reached the moment when hesitation solidifies into resolution and trust in political fate.

Yet Republicans on Capitol Hill say that only an unequivocal statement by Trump about the bill he wants to see, and a sincere effort to offer cover to conservative lawmakers, will allow a compromise to get to his desk.

Closing the deal

Given the central role played by immigration in his presidential campaign, Trump may be the only personality in Washington who can close the deal.

But the President's comment Tuesday at a bipartisan meeting at the White House that his position would be "what the people in this room come up with" struck many of his allies in Congress as an abdication of leadership, and well short of the level of commitment needed to bring the party together.

That has left the fate of the immigration bill, despite multiple efforts by different groups in Congress to find a solution, in limbo.

"In terms of how we get to the finish line, I'm not sure I see that yet," one Republican senator told CNN on Wednesday on condition of anonymity. "Everyone seems to think there's the outlines of a deal, but like I said, I'll believe it when I see it."

For Republican lawmakers, the showdown marks a moment when the responsibilities of power clash with their pursuit of ideological purity.

The party is split between comparative moderates who want to solve the issue, understand the political and humanitarian weight posed by the plight of those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and believe that the GOP must ease its position on immigration to ensure future viability. They include South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Flake, who have fought for years to enact immigration reform and are part of the 'Gang of Six' GOP and Democratic senators seeking a deal.

Then there are Republicans who are more hard-line on immigration, many of whom see the prospect that those covered by DACA could be granted a path to citizenship as tantamount to amnesty, one of the most potent words in the conservative lexicon. Hard-liners on immigration include Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Iowa Sen Chuck Grassley, who are concerned about questions like E-Verify, family-based migration and border enforcement.

The chasm that the party must traverse is huge. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Wednesday he could not countenance voting for the kind of bill he understands would be put forward by the gang of six.

"It would be inconsistent with the promises made to the working men and women of this country that we would put them first, so I very much hope Congress doesn't do so," he said.

Potent Issue

No one in the Republican Party doubts the potency of immigration. Key figures in the conservative media have warned it is the one issue that could tear the party apart and even threaten Trump's hold on his dedicated base voters.

In fact, immigration is an issue that changed the face of American politics, since it was used deliberately by Trump to build an insurgent power base that eviscerated the Republican primary field in the 2016 campaign.

The current debate is also forcing Democrats into a searing process of political self-examination -- since the fate of DACA recipients is as important to their grass roots as the wall is to Trump's. Failing to fight their corner could have consequences for the party's support among Hispanic voters, who are vital to the party's hopes of winning back power on Capitol Hill this year and the White House in 2020.

But since it is in power, the price for the Republican Party has never been so acute if it fails to find a resolution for DACA recipients. Overwhelming majorities of Americans support shielding people who were brought to the US illegally as children through no fault of their own, and the specter of mass deportations could be hugely damaging to the GOP in already tough midterm elections.

Even lawmakers who oppose granting a path to citizenship for DACA recipients understand the need to avert that nightmare scenario.

"Right now, I think the best way to do this is not to offer any kind of long-term citizenship, but legalization instead," said Rep. Mark Walker, the leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

As well as the national political consequences of acting, or not acting, the DACA imbroglio is forcing the GOP to question longtime and fundamental positions on the details of immigration as never before.

That journey into the party's soul includes finally coming up with a definition of what exactly Trump means -- and will accept -- when it comes to funding the border wall that he placed at the center of this campaign.

Will the President -- and his voters -- settle for an amalgam of walls, fences and electronically monitored border areas broken by areas of impassable topographical features like rivers and mountains, for instance?

Then the GOP must shape its own position on questions that include whether DACA recipients should be allowed to bring their parents or grandparents into the country once they are legalized. The party must arrive at a definition of exactly what it means by border security and balance the demands of its rambunctious base with other Republican constituencies like business and agricultural groups that are alienated by hard-line GOP positions on workplace verification systems like E-Verify.

The politics of the debate are so treacherous that there is no guarantee that any compromise forged by the various interest groups in the GOP caucus will win majority support in the party or in Congress, a dynamic that often played out in the health care and tax reform debates and can make assessing the progress of any reform effort highly uncertain.

"Just because we have two groups negotiating their position, they don't speak for everybody," said Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy.

"I mean they don't speak for me. I'm gonna see what this final product looks like."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295295

Reported Deaths: 6724
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19672230
Hinds18799386
Harrison16710278
Rankin12685264
Jackson12592226
Lee9687160
Madison9457199
Jones7962146
Forrest7208136
Lauderdale6833226
Lowndes6022137
Lamar588080
Lafayette5733113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4609123
Oktibbeha441393
Panola430394
Pearl River4167130
Warren4129114
Pontotoc408869
Marshall403192
Monroe3989126
Union395374
Neshoba3807168
Lincoln3541102
Hancock347374
Leflore3375118
Sunflower318386
Tate302474
Pike300195
Scott293870
Alcorn291861
Itawamba289975
Yazoo289262
Tippah278765
Copiah277857
Coahoma277568
Simpson274878
Prentiss269758
Wayne253841
Marion252678
Leake252471
Covington248879
Grenada247377
Adams234377
George231745
Newton229652
Winston221675
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201151
Holmes182270
Clay179150
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170539
Clarke169371
Calhoun157828
Smith152731
Yalobusha144836
Greene127633
Walthall124140
Noxubee122829
Montgomery122438
Perry121634
Lawrence120321
Carroll118225
Amite111533
Webster110630
Jefferson Davis101731
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93324
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77114
Franklin76119
Choctaw69516
Jefferson62527
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493769

Reported Deaths: 9931
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson710731374
Mobile36139727
Madison32425455
Tuscaloosa24184410
Montgomery22586500
Shelby21968215
Baldwin19758283
Lee14967153
Morgan13667251
Calhoun13300286
Etowah13184319
Marshall11262209
Houston10104261
Elmore9385185
Limestone9363134
Cullman8897181
St. Clair8827223
Lauderdale8607211
DeKalb8459175
Talladega7523163
Walker6524255
Jackson6495102
Autauga627091
Blount6102127
Colbert6004118
Coffee5249102
Dale4642107
Russell404930
Franklin399177
Covington3960106
Chilton3876100
Escambia377672
Tallapoosa3588142
Clarke343650
Chambers3413110
Dallas3403141
Pike293472
Lawrence283484
Marion281995
Winston246867
Bibb245060
Geneva239970
Marengo236455
Pickens224654
Barbour211651
Hale210568
Fayette200756
Butler196866
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163740
Washington156535
Crenshaw144854
Clay144454
Macon142043
Cleburne137839
Lamar132833
Lowndes131151
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105627
Sumter98531
Coosa88923
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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