While some of President Obama’s most outspoken critics are working overtime to expose details of the various scandals plaguing his administration these days, it seems there are games afoot on Capitol Hill — specifically, the little-noticed advancement of the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform proposal.
Bloomberg reports that the perfect storm of scandals has created a “honeymoon period” for pending immigration legislation.
As Glenn likes to say, watch the other hand…
The congressional probes into various government agencies diverted attention at a critical time, allowing the Senate Judiciary Committee a respite from the spotlight as it reached critical compromises on the measure and approved it on a bipartisan 13-5 vote on May 21. The bill would allow the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization a chance at citizenship.
“It’s like magic — you distract the audience while the real trick is being done — and I think right now, while Americans focus on President Obama’s unending difficulties, it’s good news for the Gang of Eight working on immigration,” said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, referring to the four Republicans and four Democrats who crafted the bill.
The proposed legislation is under the radar now, but that will change when it comes up for a high-profile vote in the Senate next month.
Nevertheless, the lack of attention focused on the Judiciary Committee’s markup may still have significant consequences:
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the group of eight that wrote the compromise bill as well as the Judiciary Committee that signed off on it, said the scandal fever that has broken out in Washington has “been good” for the legislation, lowering the emotional temperature that has surrounded past failed efforts to make immigration changes.
“To be able to go through this markup where nobody can claim that we’ve short-circuited the process — it’s been an open process, we’ve adopted some substantive amendments — to be able to do that without people calling press conferences outside and without groups calling members, it’s been a good process,” Flake said in an interview, referring to the Judiciary panel’s actions. “I’d have to say it probably helped.”
The final day of Judiciary’s markup of the bill was a case in point. While former IRS officials testified before the Senate Finance Committee, the panel convened in the building next door for its fifth day of deliberations. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, quietly reached agreement with Democrats on changes to a high-skilled visa program, clearing an impediment to his party’s support for the bill.