Every Republican senator voted in support of a (failed) effort to thwart President Obama’s executive action on immigration Wednesday. The largely symbolic procedural vote would have allowed senators to bring up a subsequent vote to block Obama’s authority to expand immigration relief in the absence of congressional reform.
Among those in the Republican block were Sens. John McCain (AZ), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Marco Rubio (FL), all of whom were part of the Senate Gang of Eight that pushed for comprehensive immigration reform last year. Driven in large part by Sens. Cruz, Sessions, and Mike Lee (R-UT), the procedural vote needed 51 votes to pass and was taken on the last day before the Senate broke for recess until after the election. It failed on a 50–50 tie vote. The vote also received support from five Democratic senators, four of whom are up for reelection in November.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) stated on the Senate floor, “If we leave town without having passed a bill to block this executive amnesty, it will be a permanent stain on the Senate, on the constitutional order, and this entire Democratic caucus. I urge my Democratic colleagues, I know the pressure is to stay hitched, to stay in line, but you do have the power to vote differently.”
“This bill does nothing, zero, for the so-called Dreamers who are already here,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated. He said his measure would have prevented new applicants in Obama’s program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but would not strip protections from current recipients. A Cruz staff member told Huffington Post’s Elise Foley that current DACA recipients can renew their applicants, but would not be allowed to work.
This is not the first time that Republicans have voted to defund the DACA program, which advocates have likened to deporting DREAMers. And already, the Alaska GOP has taken the opportunity to denounce Sen. Mark Begich (D-AL) for casting a “deciding vote backing Obama’s amnesty plan,” Politico’s Seung Min Kim reported. The GOP needs six seats to take the Senate majority.
Just hours before the Senate vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told a crowd at a conservative think tank that “immigration reform will help our economy,” even though the party has made no active motion to bring reform to a vote in the House.
But the messaging of several Republicans has grown increasingly hostile toward toward DREAMers and other immigrants as the November election approaches. Most recently, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) awkwardly side-stepped a confrontation with two undocumented immigrants. Paul, who has touted himself as an outspoken champion for GOP minority outreach, once stated that legalization should “start with DREAM Act kids,” alluding to a federal immigration bill that would have granted an earned pathway to citizenship for some qualified undocumented immigrants. But he has since moved faster and further away from that position. And Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who also voted on the motion to table the amendment, recently called out DREAMers for “harming their own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate into the United States.”
It remains to be seen whether the party will improve its checkered history of minority outreach, particularly to the Latino community. At least 37.3 percent of the Hispanic population are immigrants. At least 76 percent of the 11.7 million undocumented population are Hispanic. And at least 67 percent of Latino registered voters personally know an undocumented immigrant. And yet, when the GOP released a video touting Hispanic Heritage Month last year, it made no mention of immigration. Continuing that tradition of neglecting to mention immigration reform, the RNC released a statement on Monday extolling its party’s commitment to “fighting for pro-growth policies that will help empower Hispanic individuals and families to unleash their full potential.”