The Failure of Compromise: Immigration Edition

Bill Scher

Last month, I summed up the first few months of the new Congress in the post, “The Failure of Compromise”, which noted:

Time and time again, Democratic leaders have sought to accommodate the conservative Republican minority and craft compromise legislation. And in almost every case, it has led to bad or no results.

And in regards to the then-new immigration compromise:

Last year’s immigration reform bill scored 62 votes in the Senate, but conflicted with the conservative House bill. After the GOP’s anti-immigrant rhetoric drove the Latino vote away and contributed to the loss of Congress, momentum should have been with humane reform.

Yet key Senate Democrats concluded more compromise was needed with conservatives. The deal managed to upset immigrant advocates and anti-immigrant nativists, and is unlikely to become law.

Lo and behold, the deal died in the Senate yesterday, garnering 17 fewer votes than last year’s relatively moderate version.

According to the Washington Post, “the legislation had actually grown more conservative” after being amended on the floor. Ever after that, the conservative senator Democrats were falling all over to appease, Jon Kyl, joined the filibuster anyway.

One can only hope Congress’ leaders finally absorb the lesson.

The conservative minority will aim to obstruct legislation no matter how hard you try to accommodate them — short of full-blown capitulation (see Supplemental, Iraq).

Instead of more mushy compromises that impress no one (but the punditocracy) and go nowhere, it’s time for bold, principled proposals that have the potential to spark strong public support, and face down the failed conservative minority.

Otherwise, by futilely trying to make nice with obstructionist conservatives, their failure will become yours too.

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