Archive for November, 2010

DREAM Act to pit McCaskill vs. McCaskill

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

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.

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Potentially enduring impact of GOP wave in U.S. House

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

The 2010 congressional midterms produced a historic Republican wave in which the party gained more than 60 new seats. But with a higher-turnout presidential election looming in 2012, will the party keep them or will it lose them as quickly as the Democrats surrendered their gains of 2006-09?

Those Democrat gains were fleeting in large part because they encroached far into Republican territory. The 39-seat Democrat house majority that evaporated this week included 34 seats with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+6 or higher, which means that they were six or more percentage points more Republican than the national average in the past two presidential elections. And 18 more Democrat-held seats were rated from R+3 to R+5. These 52 Republican-leaning seats in Democrat hands were more than enough to change control of the House, as Republicans picked off 40 of them.

There are a couple of ways that’s important. First, the party was able to utilize the wave to eliminate many Democrat congressmen whose personal appeal had allowed them to keep their Republican districts in Democrat hands for many years. Republicans’ success in  nationalizing the midterms to direct voters’ focus on an unpopular president and congress and away from what they liked about their representative allowed the GOP to root out these interlopers who were regularly reelected in ordinary election years. These included Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Chet Edwards of Texas (both of whom had held down R+20 districts), Missouri’s 34-year veteran Ike Skelton (R+14), Lincoln Davis of Tennessee (R+13), Rick Boucher of Virginia (R+11), Jim Marshall of Georgia and North Dakota’s Earl Pomeroy (both R+10). Rising Democrat star Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota (R+9) was replaced by Palinesque rising GOP star Kristi Noem. The congressional careers of freshman Democrats who could have established a frustrating foothold if reelected, like Idaho’s Walt Minnick (R+18), Alabama’s Bobby Bright (R+16) and Frank Kratovil from Maryland’s conservative eastern shore (R+13), were nipped in the bud.
Second, the new GOP majority is solidly rooted in districts that are inclined to continue voting Republican. When Democrats rode their own wave into control of Congress in 2006-08, their gains included the elimination of long-serving Republicans who had held Democrat districts for years, such Connecticut’s Rob Simmons and Chris Shays. Notably this year’s Republican wave failed to reclaim those seats. When Democrats seek to reassert their authority in 2012, armed with likely legions of the same Democrat-leaning infrequent voters that powered President Obama into office in 2008,  the GOP will be better positioned to withstand the Democrat onslaught than vulnerable Democrats were in this year’s election. Having lost three of their four most Democrat-rated remaining seats this election, Republicans’ most Democratic seat in the new congress is the Illinois seat (D+7) vacated by Senator-elect Mark Kirk and retained by Republican Robert Dold. Only 10 Republican seats in the new congress are rated D+3 or worse, fewer than the 12 Democrat seats rated R+3 or better.

Of course, Democrats demonstrated in 2006-08 that they can win R+ seats when Republicans don’t perform as voters want. In order to take advantage of the fundamentals I have discussed, Republicans must use their congressional control to cut taxes and spending, facilitate an environment conducive to job creation and economic success, and demonstrate an independence from earmarks and pork.