Doing the math on immigration reform votes

David Weigel:
Imagine you’re a CEO. First of all, congratulations! Second, whether or not you can keep this job now depends on biennial shareholder votes. The day you take the job, there are 100 shareholders, and 60 of them support you. But on your second day, you get a proposal that would expand the shareholder pool over time, and you know that two out of three of the new additions would vote to remove you. Because you’re not an idiot, you deposit this plan in the circular file.

Now do you understand the plight of the Republican members of Congress? Immigration reform has been dumped in front of their doors like a USA Today in a midpriced family hotel. Most of them have no political reason to support it, and never will.

Until now the conversation about the bill’s congressional prospects has been a Lindsey Graham monologue with occasional Ted Cruz footnotes, as if the House didn’t have its own priorities and math.

This is the math.

Republicans currently control 234 of the House’s 435 voting districts. In 210 of these districts—eight short of the votes you need to elect a speaker—the Hispanic share of the vote is below 25 percent. Of the other 24 districts where Hispanic voters might be problematic for a Republican who attacks the immigration bill, 12 went for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama. So, if House Republicans held every one of their current seats that only have a tiny fraction of Hispanics, and the dozen with solid Hispanic votes but Republican tendencies, they’d have the majority with four votes to spare. “Nonwhite voters are a threat to Republican White House chances in 2016, but hardly a threat to the House Republican majority,” says David Wasserman, House race editor of the Cook Political Report.

It’s clear just how skeptical House Republicans are of immigration reform when you consider that one of those 24 sent to Washington from the mixed, white/Hispanic districts is Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (Hispanic vote in his district: 27 percent), who was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee until this year, and who still gets a committee vote on a possible immigration bill. Before Thursday’s vote Smith tweeted that “the #Senate #immigration bill ignores the will of the #American people & puts the interests of illegal immigrants & foreign workers first.”

Smith isn’t worried about any backlash to a vote against the immigration bill. Neither are most of his colleagues. The 2010 round of congressional redistricting ensured that two out of three Hispanic voters now live in Democratic districts.
There is more.

Weigel is generally a liberal but he seems to understand the dynamic of the immigration reform debate.  It is too bad several REpublican senators did not understand that dynamic.


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