How much sense does this make? Congress is deadlocked over spending cuts, at loggerheads over gun control, and paralyzed on presidential nominees. Yet somehow a bipartisan group of senators is proposing an immigration bill that might actually pass.
Yes, in spite an atmosphere that’s been called “toxic” to negotiation and great compromises, Republicans John McCain, Jeff Flake, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham joined forces with Democrats Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez, Chuck Schumer, and Michael Bennet to craft a compromise that’s won backing from the President and a chance to do what few bills in the 112th congress had done before – pass.
Props to you, guys (sorry ladies, this group’s all male).
The team has been dubbed the “gang of eight” by the press, and they follow in a long tradition of “gangs” of compromisers that have been roving for nearly a decade on Capitol Hill.
The first bipartisan “gang” I could dig up was started in 2005 to prevent the use of the “nuclear option” to break repeated filibusters. Republicans considered deploying the nuke – in which the Senate votes to ignore precedent and do away with filibusters on a party-line vote – to get around obstructionist Democrats. They eventually reached a “truce,” and when the Democrats won the Senate in 2006 the group disbanded.
A second gang of note had six members, not eight or fourteen. Started in 2009, this group of three Republicans and three Democrats convened to hammer out a compromise on healthcare legislation (remember that?). Ultimately none of their legislation was adopted. Interesting fact: the gang actually had a very small constituency to match its grand ambitions – the home states of its members had a combined population of 8.4 million, only 2.74% of the United States as a whole.
Finally, another gang was started up in 2011 to deal with the deficit. The group ended up proposing $3.7 trillion in spending cuts and was praised by President Obama. Their compromise was eventually rejected by conservative Republicans, leading to a series of fiscal confrontations that continue to this day.
In light of that rundown, it should be obvious that gangs have a mixed track record of success. Even when a subset of the Senate can reach across the aisle and come to an accord, the body as a whole might not. What does that mean for immigration?
Politics is messy, and bills that start off shiny usually have to spend a long time getting dragged through the mud before a final vote is called. Every day that passes, opponents to reform on the right and left will have more time to chip away at any consensus on the bill.
That’s what’s happened to bills proposed by past gangs, and while this one looks promising and represents a step forward, don’t get your hopes up. Ultimately, it will have to take a gang of 60 (or maybe 51) to pass anything through the Senate.
Who would’ve thought that in a city allegedly full of thugs and deadbeats we’d need more gangsters?