In a post below, John questions the extent to which President Bush is a lame duck president. The illegal immigration debate makes one thing clear — when Bush is aligned with liberals and moderates, he can be a force to be reckoned with.
Thus it is that, as Tony Snow explained yesterday, he has tried to put Republican House members in a box — back down on amnesty/citizenship-path or get steamrolled by voters for doing nothing about illegal immigration.
But let’s take a closer look at Snow’s remarks as reported by the Washington Times:
If you are a Republican member of Congress and you’re concerned about illegal immigration, do you really want to say to your constituents: You know, I’m going to wait a couple of years before I take up the issue of people knowingly hiring illegal aliens, I want to wait a couple of years before I go ahead and try to identify who the illegal aliens are, I want to wait a couple of years before I start grappling with what to do with these 11 or 12 million people who are here illegally.
Notice, though, what Republican members do not have to say. They do not have to say “I’m going to wait a couple of years before I take up the issue of defending the border.” Because although it takes an act of Congress to change the immigration laws, it doesn’t take such an act to significantly increase the extent to which the administration enforces current laws. Thus, Republican members can oppose the Senate bill (or anything along the same lines) and deny having prevented stepped-up enforcement. And they can bolster that argument by pointing to the limited and flawed enforcement provisions of the Senate’s approach.
As to the rest, I don’t hear much public clamor for a guest worker program. There is some clamor for dealing with the estimated 11 million illegals here now, but I suspect there is more clamor for deporting them (unrealistic though that is) than for figuring out how to make them citizens and provide them with new benefits. As to the latter course, I think most voters will be ok with waiting.