Chait claims that Republicans are now incapable of compromise. Waldman feels that Republicans have “reimagined the lawmaking process as a kind of extended ideological performance art piece, one that no longer has anything to do with laws in the “I’m Just a Bill” sense.” Douthat counters:
Take away the legalization-first provisions, and you lose the bill’s unanimous Democratic support; take away its promise of cheap labor, and you lose its key right-of-center constituency (the Chamber of Commerce and business in general); take away both, and the bill starts to look like the kind of much more modest legislation that the House has already passed. And if you prefer that kind of modest, “let’s have more high-skilled workers” reform to what the Senate bill sets out to do, it’s hard to see how an amendment or a conference is going to close the gulf between the two approaches, and simply ridiculous to say that opponents should vote yes now and save their objections till the next debate or “the next generation.” On the contrary: Opposing the central features of a major piece of legislation is pretty much the definition of a good reason to cut bait and just vote “no.”
But since the entire point of the bill is to do something about the plight of millions of illegal aliens already in the country who cannot be rounded up and deported en masse, criticizing it for doing just that is absurd. It’s not a “modest version” of the bill to restrict it to just high-skilled workers. It’s a gutting of the entire point of it. It reminds me of the GOP’s response to healthcare reform. They simply assume that all those who need healthcare can do without it – or besiege emergency rooms as they now do. All they want is their ideologically pure versions of laws … or nothing whatever.
Legislation exists to solve or ameliorate tangible, emergent problems. But for Ross, the uninsured can just disappear and illegal immigrants can be ignored when they are not being deported. This is why this approach is nihilist. It has no intention of doing anything to address these bleedingly obvious problems. It just wishes them away because they require some ideological adjustment or a willingness to work within the system with a duly elected president and Senate and make compromises. And wishing them away consigns millions to radical insecurity in their lives, jobs and health.
It’s also worth noting that Ross is attacking core tenets of Catholic teachings on both universal healthcare and immigration. That would not matter if he didn’t portray himself as an advocate for Catholic policies over all. But believing that the poor can do without healthcare and that illegal immigrants can simply survive as useful outcasts in this country is so counter to the core teachings of the Gospels it’s still striking to see a leading Catholic legitimize them. Why does Ross not acknowledge how opposed he is to the church’s teachings on this issue? And explain why?
Another Catholic, Ramesh Ponnuru, is in no rush to pass an immigration bill:
I think the interests of illegal immigrants have some weight, because they’re people, and if the lot of any group of people can be improved that is, all else equal, worth doing. But offering them legalization is not a requirement of justice, and so it’s fine to haggle over terms.
What’s so striking about this is that the fact that illegal immigrants are human beings is a concession here. It seems to me that in a humane society, let alone for a Catholic, that is a premise, not a concession. And haggling over terms is what legislation is about. It’s precisely what the GOP refuses to do – on anything.
(Photo: A sick elephant by STR/AFP Images.)