The idea that a secret bill of huge importance and around which there is extraordinary public interest, and one not yet even fully drafted, could be introduced on Monday and through the Senate in less than two weeks is repugnant to the idea of representative democracy. No matter where one finds themselves on the spectrum of views regarding the amnesty-lite bill, the process this year has been behind closed doors and without any opportunity for the public to see, read, debate and inform their representatives of their views. Of all the mistakes made in this process, the attempt to pull a jam down is the worst as it involves not merely some bad decisions and a lousy bill, but a repulsive attitude of contempt towards the voters who elected the senators. Can you imagine an Oregon border security activist ever voting for Gordon Smith if he or she isn't even given the time of day by the senator? The same holds true for every other Republican up for re-election in 2008.
Senators aren't even willing to go home to face their constituents before passing this cave-in on to the House.
Senators may be counting on the year-and-a-half between now and the voting to dim the memory of the jam down. Perhaps that's what Mike DeWine was counting on when he signed on to John McCain's Gang of 14. I don't know what Mike DeWine is doing these days, but as anyone who followed Ohio politics last year, the Gang of 14 hadn't faded from a lot of conservative voter's minds when DeWine lost his re-election bid. "That was because of the war," will come the reply. Believe that if you want to, but the angry reaction to the Gang of 14 plagued DeWine throughout '06, just as the even greater anger about this jam down will plague John Sununu, Norm Coleman, and even the very safe Mitch McConnell as well as every other GOPer on the ballot..
Since McCain-Kennedy 2.0 is so warmly received by the Democrats, its memory will motivate and encourage their base. Every discussion of immigration throughout the next year-and-a-half will, for conservatives, remind them of the Senate Republicans' contempt for their views and of the half-fence and the social security benefits for years worked illegally in the country. No Republican candidate, not even the conservatives of long-standing with excellent records on border security, will be free of the label elitist because this jam down is so bald, the disregard for the base so completely on display.
I interviewed Jon Kyl and Duncan Hunter yesterday, the only two elected officials willing to come on the program to discuss the fiasco that is unfolding. Hunter is of course opposed, and Senator Kyl is asking people to wait until they see the bill before criticizing it. After the interview I thought of the obvious reply to that: Why wait to criticize that which hasn't been written when John McCain has not only embraced it but decreed that it will pass quickly before debate slows it down.
The attempt by John McCain to put a gag order on the GOP caucus and its base should be the first reason why Senate Republicans should reject this bill. The leadership obviously underestimated the impact this stunt and these provisions would have on their supporters, but now they have a fiasco on their hands and the only way to resurrect the situation is to have Senator McConnell declare that the GOP insists on being able to wait until the bill is fully available on line and for the senators to go home to gage reaction and get input before moving forward with a decision on whether to filibuster it or not.
At a minimum they must move to amend the bill to get all 854 miles of fence built which were authorized last year, and built before the first grant of amnesty occurs. The physical fence is the outward manifestation of an inward conviction to respect the will of the people. The rhetoric about virtual fence is understood --rightly or wrongly but with certainty-- to be a ruse, a suspicion greatly increased by the attempt to run this jam down of an unwritten bill. Other, only slightly less compelling priorities include the refusal to subsidize the years spent working illegally in this country via a grant of Social Security benefits for those periods, and the publication of the employer sanctions proposed. That we cannot evaluate these provisions because they aren't decided upon underscores the nature of McCain's contempt for the voters.
Here is all the contact information for the Republican Senators. Call and e-mail each and demand the right to at least read the bill before the cave-in occurs.
Alexander, Lamar- (TN) (202) 224-4944
Allard, Wayne- (CO) (202) 224-5941
Bunning, Jim- (KY) (202) 224-4343
Chambliss, Saxby- (R - GA) (202) 224-3521
Coburn, Tom- (OK) (202) 224-5754
Coleman, Norm- (MN) (202) 224-5641
Collins, Susan M.- (ME) (202) 224-2523
DeMint, Jim- (SC) (202) 224-6121
Dole, Elizabeth- (NC) (202) 224-6342
Enzi, Michael B.- (WY) (202) 224-3424
Grassley, Chuck- (IA) (202) 224-3744
Hagel, Chuck- (NE) (202) 224-4224
Hatch, Orrin G.- (UT) (202) 224-5251
Lott, Trent- (MS) (202) 224-6253
Martinez, Mel- (FL) (202) 224-3041
McCain, John- (AZ) (202) 224-2235
Roberts, Pat- (KS) (202) 224-4774
Specter, Arlen- (PA) (202) 224-4254
Stevens, Ted- (AK) (202) 224-3004
Thomas, Craig- (WY) (202) 224-6441
Thune, John- (SD) (202) 224-2321
Voinovich, George V.- (OH) (202) 224-3353