02.05.2015 2

Is the GOP risking its majority on immigration and fast track?

By Robert Romano


In 2006 and 2008, Republicans were all but annihilated politically, losing both the House and Senate, and then the White House in very convincing fashion. A combination of unfavorable political circumstances and then a devastating recession were enough to sweep Democrats into supermajorities.

Yet, the victory was short-lived, particularly in the House of Representatives, where Democrats subsequently lost the majority in 2010 on the heels of a recession that wasn’t getting any better, a “stimulus” that didn’t work, and a health care law that nobody wanted.

That victory was consolidated in 2014, such that today, with 247 members, Republicans have the largest majority in the House they have ever seen since before the Great Depression. But will it last?

In a January 13 piece for the National Journal, journalist Ron Brownstein looks at a Next America study of U.S. Census Bureau data to show how the new Republican majority was built. Largely, it was on the back of 61 seats that were held by Democrats as recently as 2009, in districts that are predominantly white and “the share of college-educated whites trail the national average.”

In fact, almost 61 percent of Republican representatives, or 150, hail from districts of this type, Brownstein writes.

It is fair to say that without these districts, there is no Republican majority. Writes Brownstein on January 8, “nothing has done more to power Republicans’ ascendance in the House since 2010 than their success in routing Democrats across these working-class, culturally conservative, often exurban and rural districts — many of which once served as the strongholds for the moderate House Democratic ‘Blue Dogs.’”

Brownstein adds, “Republicans have consolidated a crushing hold on 76 percent of the 263 districts where whites exceed their share of the national population, and 72 percent of the 245 districts(many of them overlapping) with a smaller than average share of white college graduates.”

Yet, two powerful issues coming up this month in the House may threaten that ascendancy, and create an opening for Democrats. Those are Obama’s illegal immigration amnesty and fast track trade authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Why?

Personal economic impact. In short, jobs.

These are districts that are deeply suspicious of unlimited immigration and trade deals based on past experience, whether it is the drop of manufacturing employment nationwide or the prior no-borders amnesty policies that have been implemented by past administrations.

Couple that with the almost 7 million people under the age of 65 still who have left the labor force since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and suddenly the GOP could be standing on very dangerous ground.

The so-called Blue Dogs might return and make a strong case against both issues on the basis of jobs. It wouldn’t be that hard. Or, perhaps more likely, disaffected base supporters in these districts might simply stay home in the next election, ceding ground to Democrats.

Again, 61 of these seats were held by Democrats as recently as 2009.

So far, the House has done its jobs on immigration, voting overwhelmingly to prohibit the administration from implementing its amnesty for up to 4.5 million illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children, and tying that to funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

But with little traction being made in the Senate, everyone expects Republican leaders to ultimately fold on the issue. Eventually, legislation fully funding DHS will come back up, only this time it will fund the amnesty, too, and enough Republicans in the House and Senate will vote to pass it. That will be the vote everyone remembers.

And then there’s the fast track trade deal. In 2013, 150 House Democrats opposed fast track trade authority on the grounds that “Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.”

Similarly, 23 House Republicans opposed fast track in 2013 in a letter to the President, saying, “we do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for ‘Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.’”

Throw in the 61 other districts Democrats previously controlled, and a vote on fast track could suddenly become very interesting. But only if Republicans can see what’s at stake for their constituents, namely, jobs.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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