On Monday, only 27 Senate Republicans opposed the immigration “reform” bill during the first cloture vote on the bill. Four did not vote, largely because of weather delays, including both Republicans from Georgia.
On Wednesday, 31 Republicans voted against the bill, and only two did not vote – Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
At first glance, this is a good thing. It looks like a couple of GOP Senators switched their votes, whether out of fear of constituents or because they believe the bill wasn’t improved enough to support.
However, that first glance would be wrong. In fact, the two Senators who switched votes – Senators Wicker (R-MS) and newly appointed by Governor Chris Christie Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ) –pulled the traditional Washington Two-Step in order to gain passage of a bill while still claiming opposition.
It’s a common tactic. First, a Senator votes in the affirmative on cloture – meaning, that Senator gives both political cover and his or her vote to make sure a bill gets passed 60 votes. In this case, Senators Wicker and Chiesa voted to get the amnesty bill as close to 70 votes as possible.
The next step is to offer a public statement on what would bring the Senator to support the bill, or offer some sort of public angst. Senator Wicker did the former nicely on Monday:
“Today’s vote is not the end of the debate on the immigration bill, but it does provide stronger enforcement than the provisions of the base bill. I am unlikely to vote in favor of final passage of this bill unless more significant improvements are made in the coming days. I have offered several amendments to crack down on sanctuary cities and toughen the requirements for illegal immigrants applying for legal status. I hope my amendments are considered by the full Senate.”
Next, the Senator walks back potential support in another public statement:
“I will vote against passage of the immigration bill. Although the Corker-Hoeven amendment has, in my view, improved the enforcement provisions, the legislation is still deeply flawed and if enacted would not fix our broken system.
Finally, the Senator goes back home to constituents to brag that he or she took a position the constituents wanted. Since most Americans don’t understand the Senate’s “rules,” they are fooled into thinking their Senator legitimately opposed the legislation. Meanwhile, the Senator is able to benefit from his or her underhanded support for the bill in Washington.
Today’s final cloture vote takes place at 11:30 Eastern, with a probable final vote in the early or mid-afternoon. Senators Wicker and Chiesa know the odds of this bill failing are extremely low. Now that they have participated in the process to ram the bill through the Senate, they can comfortably vote against it because they know their votes won’t change the outcome.
Thankfully, for now the House appears to be holding strong. Both chambers need you to remind the members that their votes will be remembered in 2014 and beyond.