Jeb Bush’s “act of love” vs. President Obama as “deporter-in-chief”: The Republican Party base has recently shown no love for candidates who talk about the need for compassion in dealing with undocumented immigrants.
In 2012, for instance, Mitt Romney used the issue of immigration to distinguish himself from rivals like Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, who wanted to let the children of undocumented immigrants stay in the country.
So it was a bit jarring over the weekend to hear Jeb Bush say that coming to the country illegally shouldn’t really be viewed as a felony.
"Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love; it's an act of commitment to your family," Bush told Fox News host Shannon Bream at town hall event at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center.
"I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families," the former Florida governor said. "I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place."
Bush isn’t the GOP’s only possible 2016 candidate taking a softer tone on immigration. Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who has a libertarian streak, has talked about the need to broaden the party’s appeal and take a softer tone on immigration.
“We’ve got to get beyond deportation to get to the rest of the issues,” Paul said in Washington last week. “The bottom line is that the Hispanic community, the Latino community, is not going to hear us until we get beyond that issue. They’re not going to care whether we go to the same church or have the same values or believe in the same kind of future of the country until we get beyond that.”
Republican efforts to soften their image on immigration come as Democrats also face difficulty on the issue. Although the party has overwhelmingly won the Hispanic vote in recent elections and supports comprehensive immigration reform paired with a pathway to citizenship, it also controls the executive branch of government.
The Obama presidency has seen a dramatic growth in the number of deportations, and Latino rights groups like National Council of La Raza have dubbed President Obama “deporter-in-chief.”
A New York Times analysis published Monday shows two thirds of the 2 million deportations under President Obama involved not violent criminals, but “people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”
But it is unclear how Republicans can capitalize politically on Latino frustration with Obama and Democrats as long as the official party line opposes a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
Bush is often called one of his party’s big thinkers and policy leaders, the party’s conscience. He has warned Republicans that they must be more inclusive and more willing to compromise with Democrats to get things done.
“We need to elect candidates who have a vision that is bigger and broader and candidates that are organized around winning the election, not making points,” Bush said Sunday.
What he said about immigration falls in line with that goal. But it seems to go against what Bush said about a year ago, when he undercut his political mentee Marco Rubio’s bipartisan immigration proposal. Rubio had just joined the proposal, which included a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, at great political risk to himself.
Just about the same time, Bush, who had long supported a pathway to citizenship, changed his mind and published a book on how to reform the immigration system. He wrote that he was going to support only special legal status for the undocumented, not a pathway to citizenship.
Rubio’s proposal ultimately passed the Senate. But it didn’t make things any easier. The entire process showed Rubio to be capable of getting a big bipartisan bill through the Senate, but it also showed that he was ahead of the rest of his party on the issue of immigration. Rubio’s political star was badly battered, his 2016 buzz was largely snuffed, and the bill that he worked so hard to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.
It will be particularly interesting to chart the growth of Republican candidates as the 2016 race progresses from conjecture to reality.
Washington wage war: President Obama plans to sign two executive orders this week to help ensure “paycheck fairness” for women.
The president’s move coincides with a larger political and policy pitch Democrats are making as they move into a difficult midterm election atmosphere in which they hope women will get out and vote for them. Tuesday is also Fair Pay Day.
A White House official told CNN’s Jim Acosta that the president’s executive actions will focus on "pay secrecy," the idea that women who are paid less than their male counterparts may not know it because they don't know what other employees are making.
Democrats have returned to issues of wage equality repeatedly since the 2008 presidential campaign. The first law Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which responded to a controversial Supreme Court ruling and changed the statute of limitations to bring a sexual discrimination lawsuit.
Democrats in the Senate, meantime, plan a vote this week on a separate paycheck fairness measure. It would foster more transparency so that instances of paycheck inequality could be more easily identified.
The executive orders will make a similar requirement, but only for federal contractors.