President Barack Obama’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad media cycle (or week) could have many consequences for a White House on the defensive — but imperiling a comprehensive immigration overhaul likely isn’t one of them.
Reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups, the Department of Justice obtained phone records of Associated Press reporters and the continued drama surrounding the September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, has the Obama administration on its heels. On Tuesday, reporters swarmed senators arriving in the Capitol basement from the Judiciary Committee’s markup of the immigration bill, asking a litany of questions including whether the recent string of scandals could affect the legislation’s chance of passage.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., brushed off one such inquiry, opting to enter an elevator instead of answering the reporter.
The question of whether recent events affect the bill’s chances, however, is predicated on the idea that immigration is something only Obama needs or wants. Sure, a comprehensive immigration rewrite is a priority of the president, and would be the marquee legislative accomplishment of his second term. But Republicans need this, too. If they didn’t, four GOP senators wouldn’t be working in the “gang of eight” to write a bill and 17 of the Judiciary panel’s 18 members would not have voted Tuesday against an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., restricting future flow — a symbolic swipe at the heart of the current bill.
Though the White House likely would prefer that all of the extraneous stories go away — they certainly are a distraction from the task at hand — it’s possible that such opportunities to knock Obama will actually serve immigration well. Flipping the current conventional wisdom, the IRS, DOJ and Benghazi scandals give even the most moderate Republicans the opportunity to attack the president, thereby insulating themselves from conservative attacks.
For example, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a named co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Last month, she broke with her party to support the failed gun background checks expansion. She could be in the mix to vote for comprehensive immigration policy changes. But over the weekend she was on a morning talk show attacking the president for the IRS’s targeting of tea party and conservative groups.
Those are great clips for a Republican up for re-election in 2014.