Nel's New Day

January 30, 2013

GOP, BSA Worried about Losses

Whenever I travel, I pick up any newspaper I can find. Yesterday on my way home from Seattle, I read USA Today, with these large-print headlines: “Boy Scouts May Welcome Gays” and “Next Fight: Amnesty.” Both subjects show that the conservatives are getting nervous. The Republicans are afraid that they won’t get enough votes in the next election, and the BSA is afraid it won’t get enough money. For the former, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was very open about his part in immigration reform: “Elections. Elections. The Republican Party is losing the support of Hispanic citizens.”

In addressing their concerns about undocumented immigrants, the GOP isn’t afraid to ignore popular opinion on gun violence, taxes, education, and energy, but they want the Hispanic voters back.

Toward that end, four GOP senators have joined four Democratic senators to present a proposal designed to legalize many undocumented people: Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  The GOP likes to refer to the plan as Rubio’s and ignore the fact that this position copies President Obama’s 2011 proposal. McCain was behind a comprehensive reform package in 2007 before he had to oppose his own plan—that he now again accepts—in order to get conservative support for his failed presidential campaign.

Basically most immigrants could apply for permanent residency but only after the U.S. puts much more funding into border “security measures.” The favored ones in the plan are those more highly skilled and those who work in agriculture, in other words, people who the senators find most useful.

A sticky issue is “securing the border” because this is only a plan with no specifics. McCain defined it this way: “I’ll know it when I see it.” Does this mean more money? More goals? If so, what numbers? The U.S. border patrol’s budget has doubled to over $3.5 billion in little more than a decade while the number of Southwest patrol agents has gone from 3,555 to 18,506 in just two decades. The costs of paying back taxes, fines, and green card fines would also be so exorbitant, up to 50 percent of their income which is on average under $40,000, that people could not afford the government’s requirements.

The next question is whether the GOP can find the votes on legislation. Without them, the GOP could be in worse shape for votes in 2012 when they want the Latino vote. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) is one example of legislators who will obstruct immigration reform. This is his statement after the senators released their proposal:

“Anyone who believes that they’re going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken. The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. [Latinos] will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.”

At least Barletta used the term “Latinos.” Jeb Bush is co-chairing an Hispanic GOP advocacy group attempting to teach Republicans in Congress to use “tonally sensitive” language. Hispanic Leadership Network Executive Director Jennifer Korn sent GOP members a memo that some of these directions:

  • Don’t use phrases like “send them all back,” “electric fence,” and “build a wall along the entire border.”
  • Don’t characterize all Hispanics as undocumented and all undocumented as Hispanics.
  • Avoid using terms like “illegals,” “aliens,” and “anchor babies.”
  • Don’t begin with “We are against amnesty.”

The memo, however, doesn’t address the way that the Senate proposal ignores the existence of bi-national LGBT couples separated because the federal government refuses to recognize them as legally married. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called these couples a “red flag” for Republicans and “not of paramount importance” to immigration reform efforts.” President Obama takes a different approach. His proposal “treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.”

Because of the tens of thousands of these couples, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) is reintroducing “the Reuniting Families Act, a bill that reunites families by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses, children, and same-sex, bi-national partners as “immediate relatives,” and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration. This legislation will reduce visa backlog and relieve families from prolonged and unnecessary separation and heartache.”

Loss of money—and in some cases outright rebellion from some troops—has led the BSA leadership to reconsider its refusal to allow any participation in BSA of LGBT scouts or leaders. Just seven months ago, they flatly said, “No!” to this. During that time, about 50 local United Way groups joined several high-powered corporations and charities to stop giving to BSA because its ban violates the non-discrimination requirements. Other organizations also promised to also withdraw their support. In addition, change.org collected over 1.2 million signatures protesting the LGBT ban.

BSA spokesman Deron Smith said that local sponsoring organizations might be free to decide their own policies regarding LGBT inclusion in its over 290 local councils governing more than 116,000 local organizations. This statement came just days after Pack 442 of Cloverly (MD) decided to drop its non-discrimination statement after its council threatened them with removing their charter.

As might be expected, the religious right is riled. American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer said that Jerry Sandusky-like pedophiles could become troop leaders. Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said that the inclusion of openly gay members undermines “the well-being of the boys under their care.”

Like another blog writer, Michael Hulshof-Schmidt, I question whether BSA leadership will go through with this or whether the BSA will still exert control to ban LGBT people from the scouts. If the shift does occur, however, it could be at a national board meeting next week. Another group protesting BSA bans are the atheists. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said, “I would hope [the BSA] remove the rest of the bigotry and admit atheists as well.”

Another major story during the past week is the decision to allow women to serve in combat roles. The discussion since that act has been predictable: it’s a great idea, or women don’t belong there because they’re not strong and they invite sex from the men. The most remarkable quote came from Kingsley Browne during an interview by Samantha Bee on The Daily Show: “girls become women by becoming older; boys become men by actually accomplishing something.” I also appreciated Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (R-IL) statement about having already been in combat: “I didn’t lose these legs in a bar fight.” No, she lost them as a helicopter pilot in Iraq.

Also the filibuster fight disappeared in a whimper. For the pros and cons of the Senate rules agreement, most of which I don’t understand, you can go to Daily Kos. With the loss of former Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), now Secretary of State, and the decisions of Sens. Tom Harkins (D-IA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) not to run in 2014, the Democrats may appreciate that they can stop Senate action as easily as the GOP has done.

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