GOP Leaders Threaten to Sink Immigration Reform If Gay Couples Are Included
May 2nd, 2013
In their bid to pick up Hispanic voters in the upcoming mid-term elections, GOP leaders have decided that passing immigration reform would help. Immigration reform has also been a goal of Democratic legislators as well. And so earlier this month, a bipartisan group known as the “Gang of Eight” came up with an immigration reform proposal which, presumably, both sides could support. Except large constituencies on both sides find that they won’t support it. The nativist, xenophobic wing of the GOP would rather see the whole issue die, and it would only be icing on their cake if they could blame immigration reform’s death on the Democrats. And since the immigration proposal as it stands excludes gay couples, Democrats find themselves at odds with a key constituency:
Gay advocates were sharply disappointed to find that same-sex couples were excluded from the legislation, since the Democrats who wrote it included two of their most consistent champions, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second highest-ranking Senate Democrat. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where the bill is under consideration, has offered, since as far back as 2003, a separate measure that would allow immigrants in long-term same-sex relationships to obtain residency with a green card.
But in the lengthy closed-door negotiations that produced the overhaul proposal, the four Republicans in the bipartisan group made it clear early on that they did not want to include such a hot-button issue in a bill that would be a challenge to sell to their party even without it, according to Senate staff members. The Republicans are Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
…“There’s a reason this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill: It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans,” Senator Flake said. “Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues.”
Sen. Mark Rubio (R-FL), who is being talked up as a possible Presidential contender in 2016, told a conservative talk radio host, ““If that issue is injected into this bill, this bill will fail. It will not have the support. It will not have my support.” Jonathan Rauch reacts:
Really? Republicans will deep-six the entire effort, and demolish themselves with Latino voters and business interests and young people in order to prevent gay people from having someone to take care of them?
Even to write those words is to wonder whether they can possibly be true. Surely Republicans know that, according to many polls, support for same-sex marriage has tipped above the majority level and is rising. Perhaps some also know that, according to a recent Huffington Post poll, partner immigration enjoys solid 7-percentage-point support. They certainly know that, from a political point of view, the perception among younger voters that a pro-Republican vote is an anti-gay vote is toxic to the GOP brand. …and Republicans themselves are split down the middle on the more general question of whether “same sex couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.”
Even among Republicans, in other words, the constituency for policies disadvantaging gay and lesbian couples is withering. And this is where Senate Republicans want to make their stand?