In a replay of President Obama’s “come to the USA” program that brought thousands of Central American immigrants swarming to our southern border (“Kids in cages?”Sorry, that only works for Trump), President Joe Biden’s policies on non-enforcement of illegal border crossing has precipitated a massive problem on the border. The friendly media is pretzeling itself to frame this as Trump’s problem, while circling the wagons to protect “vulnerable” Biden.
“Southwest border crisis leaves Biden vulnerable on all sides” is CNN’s headline. Reuters went with “boxed in,” and changed it to “no good choices.”
One example of complications facing the president - U.S. health officials on Friday lifted coronavirus-related restrictions that cut federal shelter capacity by 40% and maxed-out bed space.
The relaxation of the restrictions boosted capacity to about 13,000, with 8,100 children in government custody as of Monday. But beds are filling up quickly.
While officials acknowledge that allowing more children into the shelters will raise the risk of more COVID-19 cases, the administration says it has little choice, since it takes so long to open new facilities.
Long-term shelters need state licensing that complies with local child welfare laws, a process that could take up to a year and can be hamstrung by local opposition from both critics of detention centers and anti-immigration groups.
Emergency influx shelters can be erected more quickly on federal properties, and the Biden administration is surveying agencies to see what options might be available, including military bases.
Is there a softer way to say “children in cages?” How about “children in custody.” It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Jim Geraghty at National Review gave the media a proper wrist slap yesterday for their flip flop on the exact same issue they skewered Trump about.
It’s not like the Biden team didn’t know this would happen: “Biden plans to spurn Trump immigration restrictions, but risk of new border crisis looms,” Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2020. How could it be more plain?
It was terrible policy—a blunder—for Biden to try to tackle coronavirus and immigration at the same time. He should have tackled coronavirus first, and weathered the storm resulting from keeping Trump border policies for a half year, while he builds the necessary infrastructure to deal with the human flood.
I did support Trump’s wall plan. A wall sends a message: “legal entry only.” I opposed Trump’s anti-immigration stance, his xenophobic policies, his cruel use of separating children from parents to dissuade illegal border crossing, and his grasping for emergency powers and other executive overreaches to make his plans happen when he failed to persuade a Republican House and Senate to fund them.
Trump took a useful idea and made it positively radioactive. He defeated himself when he could have had victory.
Biden set a bad policy and the media is putting makeup, eye shadow and lipstick on it.
But politics and messaging is more important than policy, as it has been for decades. It’s easier to let the media circle their wagons, call “kids in cages” anything but what it is, and then the news cycle will move on to other things while the thousands of families (many infected with COVID-19) languish on the border.
On another topic…
David may be wrong on H.R. 1
If you’re not familiar, H.R. 1 is the biennial bill Democrats throw up every Congress to federalize elections. This version would seek to overturn many state election security laws, and would surely attract lawsuits like a carcass attracts flies. However, the House of Representatives, on party lines, passed it. Now it goes to the Senate.
Yesterday, David Thornton wrote that HR-1 “is a dead man walking.” Looking at it from the point of view of overcoming a filibuster to get a Senate floor vote, it seems that way. And with Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema taking a firm stance against the “nuclear option” of removing the filibuster, maybe all the Sturm und Drang about “the end of the filibuster—no, really” and ominous sounding New York Times editorial board opinions, is nothing but empty grandstanding.
I would hope that David is right, and H.R. 1 is dead. But two things bother me. First, the immense pressure I’m seeing from both left wing media and corporate sources indicates that they think this is the time to strike. There may yet be a deal in the works to dance around the filibuster without killing it outright. Norman Ornstein wrote earlier this month that Democrats don’t have to kill the filibuster, they can “gut it.”
One way to restore the filibuster’s original intent would be requiring at least two-fifths of the full Senate, or 40 senators, to keep debating instead requiring 60 to end debate. The burden would fall to the minority, who’d have to be prepared for several votes, potentially over several days and nights, including weekends and all-night sessions, and if only once they couldn’t muster 40 — the equivalent of cloture — debate would end, making way for a vote on final passage of the bill in question.
What deal could Democratic leadership, and Chuck Schumer, make with Manchin and Sinema to turn the filibuster on its head instead of doing away with it? Would Minority Leader Mitch McConnell buy in? Certainly, McConnell is no friend of Trump’s, and would not scream too loudly in defeating the Trumpist “stolen election” voices by letting H.R. 1 through.
There are other options that could result in a deal. The filibuster is only one tool and Senators are very savvy at getting around it when they want to. I oppose H.R. 1 because I think the states need to fix their own elections. I am not so dead set against having some kind of national policy for presidential elections, however.
I think the last election was such a mess—a dangerous mess—that it begs for some form of across-the-board cooperation between the states. I know this may bother the more pure federalist believers out there, but certainty in an election must trump state police powers at some point. Where the line is drawn is worthy of healthy debate.
In any case, I am not so certain H.R. 1 is dead on arrival. As David wrote, not all Democrats are fire-breathing socialists. And by the same token, not all Republicans are about states’ rights and federalism, even the non-Trumpy ones.
Another note: my brother Jay and I realized we hadn’t done a “Breakfast with Bermans” podcast in a while. We just got busy. The other day we chatted about climate change, Bill Gates, and a Star Trek future (not gonna happen). We didn’t record it. But we are going to do a podcast soon. If you have any topics you want to hear us riff on, put them in the comments.
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