In a meeting yesterday with immigration advocates, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele reportedly committed to working with Senator Lindsey Graham to find another Republican senator for a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill. Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, remained skeptical, stating that while “Chairman Steele clearly understands that the future of the Republican Party is dim if his party continues to play politics with immigration reform…we need to see if Republicans will deliver additional cosponsors on the bill before April 30.”
Advocates worked hard to even get a meeting with Steele, holding a sit/pray in at the National Republican Headquarters on the Monday after the immigration march. Eventually, Steele agreed to meet with six advocates on March 31. Senators Graham and Schumer, the likely co-sponsors of a CIR bill, have struggled to find a second Republican to sign on to the bill.
Now, however, the RNC states that Steele made no such commitment. Apparently, the meeting itself was fraught with confusion:
Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said Steele went through a list of possible Republicans in the Senate who might sign on to the effort, said he would try to recruit another sponsor and agreed with the activists on their goal of getting legislation introduced by April 30. But Hoyt said that midway through the meeting, an RNC staffer signaled to Steele that he should “walk back what he had said.” After that, Hoyt said, Steele said he emphasized that he could not “get ahead” of Republican Senate leaders.
Assuming that some sort of commitment was made, there are still two questions remaining. First, and probably unanswerable at this point, is how much sway will Chairman Steele actually hold after his recent follies? There are rumblings and reports that many congressional Republicans have had enough of Steele’s mistakes, and would be unlikely to listen to him.
The obvious next question—who is the elusive second Republican? Every news cycle brings a different speculation. For instance, could it Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who this week announced that she will not be resigning her senate seat after a failed run in the Republican primary for governor of Texas? Hutchison, whose term is up in 2012, would have little to lose by supporting CIR, and would provide a strong voice from a border state. That said, Senator Hutchison ultimately voted against CIR bills in 2006 and 2007.
Now that Senators Schumer and Graham have announced a framework—however vague—for legislation, the best way to get a second Republican—and for that matter, a second Democrat—on the hook is to keep fleshing out the framework and engage with as many Senators as possible before the legislative calendar fills up or time runs out.
Photo by Mo’Kelley