Late Friday night, just before heading home for their August recess, House Republicans passed a bill to address the child migrant crisis. To do so they threw an abattoir of red meat to the right flank – pledging less than a fifth of the resources that Obama says he needs and simultaneously reinforcing deportation for the half a million DREAM Act kids. It won’t pass the Senate, of course, but it gives House Republicans a Potemkin vote they can cite when they face their Hannityed constituents this month. It’s hard to beat Weigel’s wit:
Just one year ago, Republicans were talking about passing their own version of the DREAM Act. Tonight, they put the party on record for the total cessation of Barack Obama’s quasi-DREAM Act. The arc of history is long, but it bends toward Steve King.
And a certain congresswoman from Minnesota, as Chait notes:
A party that began the Congressional term hoping to move left from Mitt Romney’s immigration stance has instead moved toward Michele Bachmann’s. (Bachmann — who, along with Steve King, helped draft the House bill — pronounces herself thrilled.) The party’s new dogma will potentially entangle its next nominee in an even less humane debate than the one that ensnared Romney. At the very least, it has put 216 House Republicans, many of whom will one day seek higher office, on record for a policy most Latino voters consider disqualifying. The aye votes include potential 2016 presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who is not likely to be greeted by friendly mariachi bands any time soon.
It is understandable that the party’s Congressional wing, based mostly in safe, deep-red districts, has failed to craft a national strategy for its 2016 candidate. But the House’s course of action has fallen well below “unhelpful” and instead verges on outright sabotage. How do they think this is going to work out for them?
Why the change of heart? A political system so gerrymandered and a country so demographically sorted no Republican need persuade a single Latino this fall in order to get re-elected. Nate Cohn elaborates:
Hispanic voters are all but absent from this year’s most competitive Senate battlegrounds. … Hispanic voters will have even less influence over the composition of the House, which is all but assured to remain in Republican hands. The clearest illustration of the extent to which the House G.O.P. is insulated from Hispanic voters is this: The party easily held the House in 2012, even though Republicans won only 30 percent of the Hispanic vote for Congress, and even though Hispanic turnout in that presidential year was higher than in a midterm election.
The reason is simple. In districts held by House Republicans, Hispanics represent only 6.7 percent of eligible voters. The Hispanic share of eligible voters is nearly as low in the House battlegrounds, 7.4 percent. Most of those Hispanic voters are only in a few districts; the G.O.P. could afford to lose them given their healthy edge in the House.
But Cillizza argues that their PR problem is bigger than that:
This is the latest in a string of incidents in which Republicans have been their own worst enemy — often because they simply can’t get out of their own way. Given their dismal approval ratings, the best way for Republicans to handle almost every issue — including this one — is to make as few waves as possible. Stay out of the news. Let President Obama do the heavy lifting on what the funding level ends up as. This issue is a no-win politically — people don’t like the idea of kids being shipped back to dangerous places but also don’t love people coming here illegally or spending billions of dollars that may or may not solve the problem.
And yet, Republicans found a way to make the story all about them in the dying days of this session of Congress. It’s remarkable — and not in a good way.