June 23, 2006
It was a delicious irony as the Senate debated the immigration issue and then the proposed minimum wage hike on Wednesday day. Sen. Kennedy was at his glorious best in his oratory on the Senate floor, yet somehow completely oblivious to the contradiction in his positions on those two issues. We need to make sure that American workers get paid enough so they don't have to live in povery! And we need to let more foreign workers into the country to take the jobs that no one will do for the (increased) minimum wage! Anyone who cannot make the connection between the Great Society welfare/labor policy regime in this country and the huge demand for "off-the-books" workers has his or her head stuck in the sand. I know, that means at least 75 percent of Americans fall into that category. And that, I'm afraid, is why neither the House nor the Senate versions of immigration reform will resolve the underlying problem. Democrats heaped scorn on House GOP leaders for proposing to hold hearings across the country to get input on how to approach the issue. (See Washington Post.) That would have been a good idea last year, but now it smacks of a delaying tactic. As some immigration reformer (such as Numbers USA) argue, no immigration bill this year is better than a watered down bill that lets the problem slide for another decade, and I tend to agree. But being more of a realist, I think a bill that accomplishes 80 percent of what needs to be done this year would be good enough.
In yesteday's Washington Post, Dana Milbank portrayed all this as "Republicans gone wild," which I think is unfairly dismissive. I am very worried that Republicans will be tempted to turn immigration into nothing more than another "wedge issue" to help them hold onto Congress in the fall elections, which would poison efforts at genuine, comprhensive reform.
Rep. John Murtha is viewed by some people as a war hero (Vietnam) and honest crusader, and even I have tended to give him the benefit of the doubt on occasion. On May 31 I noted that Murtha was one of two members of Congress who turned down the bribe offer in the 1980 Abscam affair, but that was based on a Wikipedia article -- not necessarily accurate. As Robert Novak explains, however, it was more of a "wait and see" response that an outright rejection. I should note that Novak neglected to mention that then-Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD) was the only one who refused to even consider accepting the bribe. Murtha's appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday was extremely embarrassing -- the idea that U.S. Marines could "redeploy" to Okinawa and be ready to handle emergencies in the Middle East is ludicrous.