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January 22, 2015

What’s Spanish for ‘Amnesty Stays’?

Obama wasn’t the only one to ignore amnesty Tuesday night.

Barack Obama wasn’t the only one to largely ignore immigration in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. In its much-anticipated response as the majority party for the first time in eight years, the GOP opted to nix the topic as well – at least, in the English version.

Republicans thought it appropriate to give one response to English-speaking listeners and another to Spanish-speaking listeners. Go figure. Newly elected Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa made not one mention of immigration in her response, alluding to it (and a plethora of other topics) only by saying, “We’ll work to correct executive overreach.”

Meanwhile, in the Spanish version of the response, which House Republicans initially described as merely the Spanish translation of Ernst’s response, Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida added, “We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration and strengthen our economy.” Nothing like consistency in messaging.

Then again, why should Republican leadership invest much effort in messaging on immigration if they’re not actually serious about doing anything about it? As we previously reported, the Senate received a House-passed bill to counter Obama’s executive amnesty order. That bill funds the Department of Homeland Security, which received funding under the current short-term bill only until Feb. 27, while cutting off funding for amnesty. But Senate Republican leadership is sounding concession before the opening bell.

The Senate needs 60 votes to send the bill to Obama’s desk, where it will receive an automatic veto. Obama warned in the State of the Union address that any bill attempting to “refight” past immigration battles will have “earned” his veto. After all, he won two elections, right?

Of course, a veto would place the president squarely in the way of DHS funding. But the GOP holds 54 seats in the Senate, six fewer than the votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Because of this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky cautioned Republicans against expecting miracles. Or, as one border-state congressman so eloquently put it, “Pigs will fly out of my rear end” before Senate Republicans convince six Democrats to vote contra-party. Americans would be happy to forgo miracles in exchange for an ounce of courage. Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas also announced that allowing funding for DHS to expire is “off the table.” In other words, the Senate is primed and ready to cave.

The Senate GOP leadership’s talking points – which translate into English as defeat before engagement – seem to have the same source as our unfortunate congressman’s pigs. Not that this is actually surprising. As we noted last week, the fact that the Senate is delaying focusing on the bill until February, just in time for a showdown over the funding expiration, screams defeat. And this is particularly cynical, as the House purposefully passed the bill with ample time for the Senate to do more than duck and run for cover.

It’s not too late for Senate Republicans to spend the next month whipping votes. If Republicans know what’s good for them (a questionable premise), they will use this opportunity to make good on their promise to the American people to stand up to the president’s abuse of power. Failure at this first test, however, will not portend well for the next two years. And that’s a clear message in any language.

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