Since the November, 2010 midterm elections, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), President Obama’s cheerleader in chief, has been hitting the national talk shows trying to put as much distance as she can between herself and her party’s unpopular president. But if the so-called DREAM Act comes up to a vote in the lame duck session, we will see where McCaskill’s loyalties lie when the chips are down.
The DREAM Act is the current version of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Under the bill, any illegal immigrant under age 35 who came to the country before he was 16, has been here for five years, and has succeeded in avoiding deportation is allowed to apply for permanent residency, just by saying he or she wants to go to college or join the military. (Like a 34-year-old foreigner would be interested in first joining the military or starting college. Yeah, right.) Absence of documentation means there is no way to verify the applicant’s current age or age at entry, and there is no verification of subsequent entrance into either college or the military. The bill also leaves intact the “chain migration” system that allows illegals to bring in their entire families with them. It’s a sham to open the flood gates.
The current lame duck session is Obama’s last realistic chance to pass an amnesty bill, because the Republican majority that takes over the House in January is unlikely to do so. In the Senate, the lame duck session represents Democrats’ last chance to pass it over a GOP filibuster while needing to draw only two GOP RINOs. But doing so requires a united Democrat majority for the bill, and that includes McCaskill.
When McCaskill campaigned for her seat in 2006 against then-Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), she was an anti-immigration hawk. The non-profit non-partisan web site OnTheIssues.org documented the stands that she put on her campaign web site that year. Here’s what she had to say then about immigration:
This [George W. Bush] Administration has failed to secure our borders. Claire does not support amnesty. As a former prosecutor, Claire believes people who break the law should be held accountable, both illegal immigrants and the employers who exploit them for cheap labor. Claire does not believe we need any new guest worker programs undermining American workers.
McCaskill said this about the proposal to build a fence along the border:
While building a fence along the border in some of our most porous areas is an appropriate first step, rampant illegal immigration will not be resolved until Washington [focuses on] securing our borders [instead of] cheap-labor.
And in an eerie foreshadowing of Arizona’s controversial 2009 law and the Obama Administration’s litigation against it, Claire said this in 2006:
The states have had to unfairly shoulder [sic] the costs of enforcing immigration laws because Washington has been shirking its duty. Claire will fight to make sure our states have the resources they need and to hold Washington accountable for its failures to secure our borders.
Consistent with those positions, in 2007 McCaskill voted against the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill and for a bill to make English the official language of the United States.
But McCaskill changed gears in March, 2008, after she had endorsed Obama’s presidential candidacy. She voted to table (i.e., kill) a bill to create a reserve fund to ensure that Federal assistance does not go to “sanctuary cities” that ignore the immigration laws of the United States and create safe havens for illegal aliens and potential terrorists.
After Obama’s election, McCaskill ramped up into cheerleader mode and enthusiastically backed Obama’s agenda. While her Congressional Quarterly “presidential support index” for 2009 was 80% (relatively low for a Democrat), numbers backing her so-called independence were padded by votes on inconsequential issues. McCaskill was there for Obama to back his controversial bailouts, the failed stimulus bill, the health care takeover and Big Labor’s pet “card check” bill (which wasn’t pulled from consideration until after McCaskill had announced her support).
With her own seat on the line in 2012, whose side will McCaskill take in the lame duck session, the president who needs her vote or the Missouri voters who put her there based on her promises to oppose amnesty? I think it depends on whether her vote is decisive. If the DREAM Act is going to lose anyway, she will pander to the voters and pile on against it, but if her vote is the difference between victory and defeat, Obama can count on her as usual. We’ll see.
Update: On December 18, 2010, McCaskill chose loyalty to Obama over fidelity to her campaign promises, even though DREAM was five votes short on the cloture vote.