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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.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
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