Why immigration reform has GOP leaders eating one of their own

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) speaks during a news conference with youths who are unable to serve in the military because they are in the country illegally. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

By Lisa Mascaro in the Los Angeles Times

Not only have House Republican leaders ditched a comprehensive immigration overhaul from the Senate, now they are even blocking a more modest effort from one of their own.

House GOP leaders have refused to allow a vote on legislation from Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) that would provide legal status and a path to citizenship for immigrants who serve in the military.

Last week, Denham tried to attach his bill to the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping must-pass annual spending bill. But GOP leaders blocked a vote on the amendment. Denham has vowed to try again.

The country has a long history of naturalizing immigrants through military service. In 2002, President George W. Bush expedited citizenship for those who served after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — including those here illegally. Since then, the Immigration Policy Center estimates, 53,000 immigrants, those with legal status and not, have obtained citizenship through military service.

Denham, a former Air Force crew chief who served in Desert Storm, argued to his GOP colleagues that he knew many immigrants during his time in the service, and that they served the nation faithfully.

Just as important to Denham, he represents a Central Valley agriculture-heavy district in California that is 40% Latino, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

But Denham is a bit of an outlier in the party. Most Republican lawmakers represent districts that have been gerrymandered into conservative strongholds, with few minority populations.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

Senate Republicans Turn Their Backs on Veterans

Senator Bernie Sanders (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

It’s hard to pinpoint the pinnacle of Republican depravity, but GOP senators came close Thursday afternoon when they blocked a bill extending healthcare, education and job training to hundreds of thousands of veterans, largely because they were unable to use the bill as a vehicle for new sanctions on Iran.

“Today, the Senate had a chance to put aside partisan politics and do what was right for the men and women who have sacrificed so much while wearing our nation’s uniform,” said Daniel Dellinger, commander of the National Legion, a prominent veterans organization with a conservative reputation. “I don’t know how anyone who voted ‘no’ today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote.”

Republicans used a procedural move to kill the legislation, which was the largest veterans bill in decades and had the support of all of the major veterans groups. The bill would have funded twenty-seven new clinics and medical centers, and made VA healthcare more accessible for veterans without service-related injuries. It would have strengthened dental, chiropractic, fertility and sexual trauma care. It would have extended a job training program and given veterans better access to higher education by making more of them eligible for in-state tuition. Spouses of deceased service members and families caring for wounded veterans would have received better support.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans said the $21 billion package was too expensive. “This bill creates new veterans’ programs and it’s not paid for—it’s all borrowed money,” Senator Jeff Sessions said before raising a budget point of order that effectively killed the legislation by requiring sixty votes to proceed. Only two Republicans, Dean Heller of Nevada and Jerry Moran of Kansas, voted with the Democrats, leaving the motion to waive the point of order a few votes shy of passage.

“If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, then don’t go to war,” Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, said on CNN shortly before the vote. Sanders proposed paying for the bill with savings from the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan; the expenditures amounted to less than 2 percent of those savings, and would have directly benefitted the soldiers who fought those wars. (Which, incidentally, themselves added $2 trillion to the debt.) Furthermore, according to an updated score from the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would actually have decreased the deficit by $1.34 billion over the next decade.

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