The two major non-budgetary legislative battles on the horizon pertain to immigration and guns. Both struggles will be bitter and divisive.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering the stakes. However, the divisions in Washington will obscure the fact that a consensus exists, or can fairly easily be built, on both issues.
On immigration, conservatives want improved border security. Liberals say they support improved border security but demand, as its condition, amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens once there is some sort of confirmation that the border has been secured. And both sides appear to be fine when it comes to “guest worker” reform.
The consensus position would be improved border security as a condition for amnesty, but without a path to citizenship. The tricky work would remain of figuring out how to determine if/when the border is secure. But if this technical issue can be resolved, I believe the resulting compromise would likely enjoy the widespread support of the American public. And, personally, although I’m philosophically opposed to amnesty, the compromise would be acceptable.
Unfortunately, this compromise won’t happen. The Democrats will insist on a path to citizenship for millions of virtually sure-thing future Dem voters and, if they don’t get it, will use the outcome to lock down the current Hispanic vote. They are in a win-win situation, although the bigger win is the path to citizenship.
On guns, the Democrats are pushing for a ban on certain types of weapons and the broadening of background checks. The ban looks like a non-starter politically. It is also questionable on the merits because (1) it seems to be founded on dubious distinctions among types of weaponry and (2) there is insufficient evidence that this type of ban worked in the past.
But a reasonable expansion of background checks makes sense to me and, I believe, to many conservatives and a strong majority of Americans. For example, Ben Shapiro, in his contentious exchange with Piers Morgan that Steve highlighted here, expressed his support for such reform. It was, I think, the only issue on which Shapiro and Morgan agreed.
Again, though, the Democrats can be expected to take an all-or-nothing approach. In the case of guns, they are likely to get nothing. With immigration reform, they may get pretty close to all, but we will see.