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One Cheer for Rahm Emanuel
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November 06, 2008, 02:36 PM
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At first glance, Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff bodes poorly for the prospects of patriotic immigration reform. Emanuel has a F lifetime grade from Americans for Better Immigration with a terrible record in every single category. However, I personally think it’s the best we can hope for.

Representing an overwhelmingly Democratic district, Emanuel has not had to worry much about reelections; so his votes are based on lobbying and/or ideological considerations. However, when he’s worked with politicians less left wing districts; he has shown enough himself to be politically astute enough to recognize that amnesty is a losing issue, and unscrupulous enough to work with patriotic immigration reformers.

As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel was instrumental in recruiting candidates like Heath Shuler and Nancy Boyda to run in conservative districts and had no problem with them taking a hard line on immigration.

Then as chair of the of the Democratic Congressional Caucus—which was given near equal power with the whip under his leadership—he gave those Democrats a great deal of freedom to take proactive stands for patriotic immigration reform, most notably with Shuler’s sponsorship of the SAVE Act.

This upset the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. According to a Congressional Quarterly article last September:

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus want more party discipline to stop Democrats from siding with the GOP on measures they view as anti-immigrant. Six times since June, House Republicans have used procedural votes to box Democrats into a corner on various aspects of illegal immigration.

Vulnerable Democrats, including 19 freshmen, have voted “yes”on at least some of those votes. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana and Heath Shuler of North Carolina — both freshmen from districts that President Bush carried in 2004 — have voted with Republicans all six times.

Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joe Baca, D-Calif., said he met this week with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to press for more unanimity among Democrats.

“She agrees that we have to start holding a lot of our members a lot more accountable,”Baca said, adding that certain members “shouldn’t be getting free rides”when it comes to party loyalty.

“There has to be some form of discipline in bringing the whole team across the finish line,”Baca said.

While Emanuel declined to comment on what took place in the meeting, Baca was not happy; and went as far as accusing Emanuel of whipping some Democrats into co-sponsoring the SAVE Act.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Democrats who co-sponsored the SAVE Act refused to sign the discharge petition. It is not clear whether this had anything to do with Emanuel.

While the average voter may not know enough of the jargon to distinguish between cosponsorship and a discharge petition, they know an amnesty when they see it; and will hold the politicians who vote for it accountable. (For those who don’t know, co-sponsoring is just a symbolic gesture to show support for a bill, while a discharge petition allows the bill to go to the floor for a vote when the committee leadership won’t approve it.)

Unlike Karl Rove and Grover Norquist, Emanuel understands this. Hopefully, if only for pragmatic considerations, he will encourage Obama not to waste political capital on amnesty.