Pence losing base at border?

August 29, 2006 at 8:29 am

Jason DeParle has a must-read piece — Star of the right loses base at border — in today’s NY Times. In his story DeParle writes about RSC Chairman Mike Pence, his conservative bona fides and the potential for Pence to lose support amongst the conservative base because of his efforts to advance a compromise proposal on the immigration issue.

First, Pence’s undeniable conservative street cred:

“I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad about it,” he often says.

Arriving in Washington, he was dismayed at conservatives’ support for government expansion. In 2001, he was one of 34 Republicans to oppose the No Child Left Behind Act, which expanded federal involvement in education. In 2003, he was one of 25 who opposed the Medicare drug benefit. “I was voting against big conservative government before it was cool,” he said.

Congressional leaders hinted at reprisals, but the base applauded, especially after a 2004 speech in which he warned that the movement was drifting into “the dangerous and uncharted waters of big government.”

Among those won over was Paul Weyrich, a fixture of movement conservatism. He said Mr. Pence had strong appeal among supporters of four major conservative causes: limited government, free enterprise, strong defense and traditional values.

“Nobody is perfect, but he comes pretty close,” Mr. Weyrich said. “He is what I’ve been waiting for in terms of leadership.”

…His influence was apparent last fall after Hurricane Katrina, when Washington was suddenly filled with talk of new aid for the needy. Concerned about the cost, Mr. Pence’s group replied with Operation Offset, a plan to cut $500 billion over 10 years in programs that included Medicaid, tax credits for the poor, and care for people with AIDS.

It outraged the leadership, which accused him of showboating, and failed to pass. But it quickly changed the political dynamics, from starting programs to cutting them. Five months later, with Mr. Pence nearby, President Bush signed a bill that cut $39 billion over five years. “I think Operation Offset had something to do with that, though I would never boast of that,” Mr. Pence said.

Edwin J. Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington group, said Mr. Pence “has really been central to the revival of principled conservatism in the House.” Admirers have already begun a “Mike Pence for President” Web site.

Now, Pence’s — according to some on the right — unforgivable sin:

When Mr. Pence weighed in on immigration this spring, the issue, like much of the Republican agenda, was stalled and Republicans were deeply split. The House had passed a tough bill focusing on border security alone. The Senate had passed a broader measure that included a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here.

Mr. Pence tried to offer something to everyone. He included provisions to bolster the borders. After two years, if the government certified that those changes were in place, a guest worker program would begin. Those here unlawfully would have to leave the country and apply at job-placement centers. By requiring re-entry, Mr. Pence argues, the plan avoids amnesty and respects the rule of law. The guest worker visas could be renewed, with a chance of citizenship after 17 years.

The article goes on to note that Team America, a Bay Buchanan and Tom Tancredo operation dedicated to securing the borders and fixing the illegal immigration problem has furthered their hardball tactics against Pence by creating a “Pence Watch” on their website.

This is the same group who attacked Pence after he announced his proposal as a “former conservative hero.” That attack prompted some to challenge Tancredo on his my-way-or-the-highway approach to immigration reform.

I think I have been pretty clear regarding my thoughts on this issue. Bottom line: conservatives who would throw one of their most promising young up and coming leaders overboard because of a disagreement on this issue are shortsighted at best.

Stop the madness.

The middle of the road may get a conservative run over

Compromise may hurt Pence

Colson backs Pence compromise

Details of Pence-Hutchison bill

Compromise plan in the editorials

Pence on the border

August 25, 2006 at 9:27 am

RSC CHairman Mike Pence posts an entry on his blog after touring the border with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Pence concludes:

As I fly back to Dallas, I believe we have made progress in border security but our U.S. Border Patrol and DEA need help. They need people, technology and funding for barriers and equipment. And they need Congress to come up with a way that people can apply legally outside the United States to meet the needs of our grow ing economy. With the resources, the people, the tools and the ability to just focus on the bad guys, our law enforcement community can secure our border and protect our nation.

Pence-Hutchison immigration plan gets boost

August 24, 2006 at 7:28 am

The Washington Post:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will tour the Texas-Mexico border this morning with the conservative authors of a congressional immigration compromise, in what will be the clearest sign yet that the Bush administration is prepared to make major concessions to reach an immigration deal this year.

Chertoff’s appearance with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) is “in no way meant to signal an endorsement” of their compromise, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said. But it was seen by supporters and opponents yesterday as a boost for the plan and a significant White House concession to conservatives.

The Administration can say that they are not endorsing the Pence-Hutchison immigration compromise plan all they want, but the optics of the DHS Cheif touring the border with the duo looks like a plug. This is in addition to the President’s personal interaction with Pence in regards to the plan (before Congress left for recess Pence had a personal audience with Bush who was reportedly intrigued with Pence’s plan). It looks to me like the White House is warming up to this would-be compromise package.

Pence-Hutchison immigration bill in the editorials

August 14, 2006 at 10:47 am

Both the Washington Post and the Washington Times editorial boards today address the Pence-Hutchison immigration reform compromise proposal. Neither editorial board endorsed the proposal, but both seem to think it could serve as a solid position from which the stalemated debate could be advanced.

The Washington Post:

We are not endorsing Pence-Hutchison; that would be impossible given that no actual legislation has been introduced. We do, though, applaud its authors for seeking to refocus the immigration discussion in a positive way. One plus is that their brand of enforcement-first is not tied to achieving an unrealistic — and unattainable without other reforms — degree of border control. Rather, Pence-Hutchison concentrates on benchmarks tied to resources and capabilities: hiring more agents, increasing detention capacity and making certain that employers poised to hire immigrant workers have a reliable system (secure identification cards, accurate databases) to verify eligibility. Postponing the rest of reform for two years while these goals are met isn’t ideal, but it’s a reasonable compromise.

The Washington Times:

The compromise in the Pence bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, is to have a phased “comprehensive” process whereby a guest-worker program would be instituted only after the border is declared secure. This is an alternative to both the enforcement-first bill the House approved last year, which we endorsed, and the Senate’s disastrous amnesty package. We can accept the idea driving Mr. Pence’s compromise bill because it attempts to assuage concerns that the federal government, and in particular this administration, has no real interest in closing the border. We are persuaded that the security provisions in the Senate amnesty package are merely empty promises to win conservative votes.

Our objection to the Pence proposal is that the “triggers” by which the administration would determine whether the border is secure are unlikely to work. Instead of focusing on the means (i.e., increasing Border Patrol agents, placing sensors and building physical barriers on the border), we believe the compromise should focus on the ends. This would require hard numbers as proof that the illegal-immigrant tide has actually diminished to an acceptable trickle. Compiling such persuasive numbers would likely take longer than the two years the Pence bill envisions.

The Washington Times goes on to note “deep reservations” about the rest of the draft, but sees it as useful nonetheless:

Despite these reservations, we urge Republican members to use the Pence-Hutchison compromise as a starting point. If a consensus can be reached that does not ignore national security or leave the serious problems for a later Congress to solve, Republicans can probably break the stalemate. But they must begin, and at once.

Congress returns in September and will only have five weeks to find some sort of solution on this issue. If no solution is reached, both parties will scramble to blame the other for the results. I hate to say this, but the Washington Post might have a good point:

When they return in September, they ought to ask themselves: If they fail to come up with a realistic solution by election time, won’t voters blame the folks who have been in charge?

I suspect the answer to that is most assuredly yes.

Ken Blackwell blogger outreach

July 28, 2006 at 9:59 am

Quin Hillyer notes two quotes that he found particularly impressive from Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s visit with conservative bloggers this week:

1) “It’s a simple principle:… Capital seeks the path of least resistance and most opportunity. … A confiscatory tax code [is] the handmaiden of big government,” and it harms the economy.

2) “The flip side of poverty is wealth creation….There is an upward-mobility tradition in our society.” Black voters, too, understand that we can “build an asset base that actually wins the war on poverty.” And Blackwell, who would become the first black governor in Ohio’s history, said he is aiming for a majority of the black vote.

To which I add: If there is any one candidacy that should interest conservatives this year, it is Blackwell’s. He’s the real deal, a principled conservative on issues across the board, and he’s impressive as can be. He has proved his vote-getting potential as mayor of Cincinnati and as a thrice-elected statewide officeholder.

Also interesting in Hillyer’s post is his take on the Pence-Hutchison immigration proposal:

Rep. Pence and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have put together a superb package on immigration reform. It combines truly tough border security (which must be in place and certified effective for two years before the other parts kick in) with the Pence/Helen Krieble program that will set up a market-based system for guest workers run from centers outside the United States and requiring all currently illegal workers to leave the United States before becoming eligible for the program. Sen. Hutchinson added several other good ideas as well; all told, this bill is both creative and conservative, through and through. That’s why a host of leading conservatives already have endorsed it.

Pence-Hutchison immigration plan gets nod from blogger

July 26, 2006 at 12:44 pm

Hugh Hewitt calls the Pence-Hutchison immgration reform plan “common sense on immigration“.

Details of the Pence-Hutchison immigration proposal

July 26, 2006 at 9:19 am

The Washington Post has an outline of the Pence-Hutchison immigration plan.

Meanwhile, the proposal is being criticized by Senators who crafted the McCain-Kennedy bill. This via Congressional Quarterly ($):

“I think some of it seems difficult to implement,” said Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who played an active role in crafting Senate bill provisions that would lead to citizenship, over time, for most illegal immigrants who can show they have been in the country at least two years.

Martinez said he was particularly concerned about a Hutchison-Pence proposal that would require all illegal immigrants to leave the United States before seeking visas to work here, and about the length of time immigrants would have to wait to be eligible for permanent residency.

Ken Salazar of Colorado, a leader on immigration among Senate Democrats, said the Hutchison-Pence proposal appeared “unworkable.” A plan that requires illegal immigrants to leave would have the reverse effect, he said, driving many deeper into hiding.

The Senate bill had the support of “20-plus Republicans and most Democrats,” and “that’s where we should start,” Salazar said.

Finally, Pence and Hutchison have penned an OpEd for today’s Washington Times in which they lay out their plan.

Pence remarks at Pence-Hutchison presser

July 25, 2006 at 12:26 pm

The full remarks of Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Pence at today’s Pence-Hutchison presser are in the extended section. Here are two key grafs:

Two months ago President Bush set out his views on immigration reform to the American people. He said: “There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation.”  As I said a few days after the President spoke, I believe there is a rational middle ground, but amnesty is not the middle ground on immigration reform.

I always have seen the solution as a four-step process.  Securing our border is the first step.  The second step is to make the decision, once and for all, to deny amnesty to people whose first act in the United States was a violation of the law.  The third step is to put in place a temporary worker program, without amnesty, that will efficiently provide American employers with willing temporary workers who come to America legally.  The final step is tough employer sanctions that ensure a full partnership between American business and the American government in the enforcement of our laws on immigration and temporary workers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reid won’t support funding for border security

July 25, 2006 at 9:54 am

An interesting email from the Hill:

In case you missed it, just a few short hours after U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Jon Kyl called for an emergency border security funding measure that would better secure America’s borders, aid law enforcement and re-energize House-Senate negotiations on immigration reform legislation, Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid’s office told Congressional Quarterly this afternoon that the proposal “smacks of desperation” and that Reid was “very unlikely” to support it. Notably, the story did not contain a single alternative proposal or idea offered by Senate Democrats for moving the deadlocked negotiations forward.

Pence-Hutchison proposal looks to bridge divide

July 25, 2006 at 8:30 am

This morning at 10:00 in the U.S. Capitol Radio and TV Gallery Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representive Mike Pence will unveil a revamped compromise immigration reform plan. The Washington Post:

The proposal — sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) — would pressure illegal immigrants to “self-deport” to their home countries within two years of the law’s enactment and apply for a new kind of visa that would allow them to return to the United States quickly and work legally if a job awaits them. They would have to work here for 17 years, however, to be eligible for U.S. citizenship.

The plan, which has received mixed reviews from those briefed on it, is aimed at unifying Republicans on an issue that has bitterly divided them for months and threatens to damage the party in future elections…

Hutchison and Pence consider it the foundation for a possible compromise between the Senate, which voted for a plan that would provide a new path to citizenship, and the House, which has demanded that Congress focus only on securing borders for now. Former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), a critic of the Senate bill, said the new proposal could be “a bridge between the two bodies.”

Armey, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie were briefed on the plan in hopes that they would help build pressure on skeptical lawmakers, the aides said. White House officials, including presidential adviser Karl Rove, have been told of the framework but not the details. A Republican close to the White House said President Bush “won’t be crazy about it, but I think he would sign it.”

And now for some details:

The government would spend about two years instituting the security changes. U.S. companies would open Ellis Island-type centers in many countries to process applications for a new kind of work visa, known as the Good Neighbor SAFE (Secure Authorized Foreign Employee) visa. The government would create tamper-proof identification cards that contain personal information and biometric technology designed to minimize fraud. Illegal immigrants would be required to return to their home countries and apply for the SAFE visa. They would undergo criminal background checks and health screenings and would need to prove that a U.S. job awaits them.

The new visa would be offered only to immigrants from countries that are part of trade pacts covering Canada, Mexico and most of Central America. The SAFE visas would be good for two years and could be renewed five times, for a total stay of 12 years. At any point, the holders could return to their home countries and apply for U.S. citizenship without paying a fine or back taxes. But they would have to wait in line.

Illegal immigrants could extend their stay beyond 12 years by applying for a five-year X-Change visa, which requires a job and a clean record. After 17 years in the system, X-Change visa-holders could go through the citizenship process without leaving the United States.

Any proposal that is labeled a “compromise” seems to me to have an uphill climb. Both sides — the Senate with their amnesty McKennedy bill and the House border security first crowd — are so dug in that a “compromise” plan may be dismissed simply because of its name irregardless of the contents of the proposal. Pence and Hutchison have a tall task in selling their proposal to their colleagues.

Meanwhile, President Bush is still pushing the issue hard. In a speech yesterday he again pushed for comprehensive reform:

“Congress is now considering legislation on immigration reform,” Mr. Bush said. “That legislation must be comprehensive. All elements of the problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all.”…

In calling on Congress to act, Mr. Bush was trying to bridge a wide gap between the Senate and House. Each chamber has passed an immigration bill, but the two versions are vastly different in intent and content. The Senate version would offer eventual citizenship for many illegal aliens, while the House version is far tougher and focuses on border security.

And then, as if the issue was not complicated enough, there is this:

The Republican base is being rejuvenated, some conservative activists say, by a flurry of congressional action on “values” issues such as marriage safeguards, flag protection and abortion restrictions, as well as President Bush’s veto last week of stem-cell legislation.

They warn against counteracting that progress with a comprehensive immigration bill that conservatives consider amnesty.

This is exhibit A as to why the Pence-Hutchison proposal may be a longshot.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Pence and Hutchison may have hit the sweet spot. Mike Allen reports:

The first two years of the program would be dedicated to border security. Then, under a mechanism known as a trigger, the President could certify to Congress that the borders were secure and the temporary worker program would begin.

A House Republican leadership aide said members “are looking for a safe landing zone as far as a guest worker program that can’t be defined as amnesty,” and that the plan appeared to provide just that.

On the Senate side, a Republican leadership aide said that senators “are looking for an alternative” and that the Hutchison-Pence proposal “might be another way to keep the conversation on immigration moving forward.” However, he said some senators were contemplating attaching a border-security measure to an appropriations bill, and said that might have a better chance of passing before the midterm elections in November.

It does seem that the last option mentioned — a simple rider enacting border security first — would be less controversial than Pence-Hutchison and would calm the political storm on the right. If that option gains momentun it will do so to the detriment of the Pence-Hutchison proposal.

Finally, Majority Leader John Boehner has penned an OpEd today calling for border security first.

Kyl, Cornyn urge full funding for border security

July 24, 2006 at 4:43 pm

Senators John Cornyn and Jon Kyl today called on the President to support a supplemental spending bill that would fully fund border security efforts authorized by Congress. The move is an effort to move the ball forward in the debate over immigration reform which has stalled of late.

From a Cornyn-Kyl press release:

Sen. Cornyn said: “While I am still very much committed to a comprehensive immigration reform bill, I believe that for the legislative process to move forward, the White House and the Congress must restore public confidence in the government’s ability - and will - to enforce the immigration laws. It is for this reason that we have sought the President’s support for a supplemental in our letter today, and we are hopeful that it will re-energize discussions between all parties in our effort to reach a compromise on this very important issue.”

Sen. Kyl said: “I continue to believe that Congress must address immigration reform in a comprehensive manner that starts with securing the border. There is much that Congress can do immediately to address our border security needs. That is why we are making this request to the President today. Emergency funding for border security will send a clear message that the government is seriously committed to the enforcement of its border.”

In other immigration news, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Congressman Mike Pence are scheduled to hold a joint press conference tomorrow in which they will talk about the issue of immigration reform. Pence has offered an immigration reform compromise plan and Hutchison has expressed interest in helping find a workable compromise between the Senate and House versions.

The press conference is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. in the Capitol.

Martinez sees long term GOP loss

July 24, 2006 at 10:09 am

Florida Senator Mel Martinez thinks the House position on immigration threatens the long-term viability of the Republican Party. Martinez cites recent polling that shows Republican numbers amongst latino voters falling drastically.

Martinez had read a news story about the poll at breakfast and said that “it is no surprise. I have seen it coming.” The day before, he said, he had met with a group of House Republicans, looking for support for a compromise on the immigration bill that he helped shepherd through the Senate.

Martinez said he warned the House members that their opposition to the guest worker provisions in the Senate bill and its opening a path to citizenship for the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be living in this country was damaging the party.

But he made no headway. “They go to their town meetings and all they hear from the people there is ‘close the border,’ ” Martinez said. “They think that’s the way to get reelected this year. They don’t think about the long-term cost.”

While Martinez’s worry about the long-term consequences amongst latinos is a matter open for debate, the short term consequences for Republicans of passing Hagel-Martinez is not. As Jonathan Weisman reports, for many House Republicans up for reelection this fall, their hard-line stance on immigration is the only thing they have going for them:

In a year of bad omens for Republicans, there is at least one potential bright spot: immigration.

Most Republicans in the House and many in the Senate are pushing to crack down on illegal immigration and are vowing to fight anything that could be construed as amnesty or guest-worker status for undocumented workers already in the United States. This stance excites the conservative base at a time when many on the right are disenchanted with their party over high spending and other issues.

I am not discountint Martinez’s concerns about the immigration debate. But he has not given his House colleagues anything to work with. The Hagel-Martinez-McKennedy bill is amnesty for millions. That is a political non-starter and rightly so. You can’t blame House Republicans for making the right choice between amnesty and border security only.