Media Revise History To Blame Democrats For Failing To Pass Immigration Reform


Media are engaging in revisionist history to absolve Republicans of blame for failing to pass immigration reform this year, repeating the right-wing lie that President Obama and the Democrats had "two years" to pass immigration reform legislation in 2010 when they had control of both chambers. In fact, Republicans -- then and now -- are the reason immigration reform continues to fail.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, editorial writer Sandra Hernandez asserted that "Republicans shouldn't shoulder all the blame for the failure to fix the nation's dysfunctional immigration system." Hernandez continued: "After all, we wouldn't be having this debate if Democrats had passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, when they controlled both the House and the Senate."

Similarly, in a Los Angeles Daily News op-ed titled, "Both parties to blame for failure to reform immigration," San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that "Obama did not deliver on his 2008 promise to push an immigration bill during his first year in office, even though Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House during the first two years of his presidency." She added:

Only after Democrats lost the House in 2010 did that lame-duck body pass the DREAM Act to offer citizenship to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Because supporters couldn't deliver the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- five Democrats voted no -- it tanked.

Unfortunately, history can't be so easily airbrushed. As numerous fact-checks have noted, while the Democrats did control a majority of votes in the House for two years from 2009 to 2011, the same is not true of the Senate.

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained:

Until Al Franken was sworn in on July 7, the Democratic caucus in the Senate stood at 59. After that it was technically up to 60, but Ted Kennedy hadn't cast a vote in months and was housebound due to illness. He died a few weeks later and was replaced by Paul Kirk on September 24, finally bringing the Democratic majority up to 60 in practice as well as theory. After that the Senate was in session for 11 weeks before taking its winter recess, followed by three weeks until Scott Brown won Kennedy's seat in the Massachusetts special election.

So that means Democrats had an effective filibuster-proof majority for about 14 weeks. Did they squander it? I guess you can make that case, but there's a very limited amount you can do in the Senate in 14 weeks. Given the reality of what it takes to move legislation through committee and onto the floor (keeping in mind that the filibuster isn't the minority party's only way to slow things down), I think you might make the case, at most, that a single additional piece of legislation could have been forced through during that period. But probably not much more than that. Democrats basically had a filibuster-proof majority for about three months. That's just not very long.

Following the similar claim of a "filibuster proof majority" by Fox's Chris Wallace, MSNBC's Steve Benen put together a timeline of events that recounted the Democrats' "fleeting, illusory supermajority." Benen concluded: "Wallace believes the Dems' 'filibuster proof majority in the Senate' lasted 24 months. In reality, he's off by 20 months, undermining the entire thesis pushed so aggressively by Republicans."

Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein, a Washington Post blogger and columnist for Salon and the American Prospect, further explained that "depending on how you count things, it's six months, or five months, or four certainly isn't two years."

When Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn criticized Republican Rep. Aaron Schock (IL) for making the same two-year claim on MSNBC, Zorn wrote:

The claim that Obama ruled like a monarch over Congress for two years -- endlessly intoned as a talking point by Republicans -- is more than just a misremembering of recent history or excited overstatement. It's a lie.

It's meant to represent that Obama's had his chance to try out his ideas, and to obscure and deny the relentless GOP obstructionism and Democratic factionalism he's encountered since Day One.

They seem to figure if they repeat this often enough, you'll believe it.

Saunders also claimed that Democrats should be blamed for failing to pass the 2010 DREAM Act, a measure that would have granted legal status and eventual citizenship to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. In fact, it has been well-documented that the measure failed because of a Republican filibuster.

Discussing a claim by Mitt Romney during the 2012 election that President Obama "failed to address immigration reform" after he promised to do so in 2008, MNSBC co-host Ari Melber stated:

MELBER: You know, when [Romney] gets up there and says this president and the Democrats haven't tried to do anything until the last minute as a political maneuver, that may play well with people who haven't been following it, but people in this community know about the DREAM Act, they know that 55 senators were pushing it, that it had a majority, that it was filibustered. They know all that. You don't have to remind them of that because people follow the issue. So for him to say that I think also rings a little hollow.

Moreover, in December 2009, Democrats introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House, which Republicans reportedly "declared dead on arrival." They denounced it "as impractical and amounting to amnesty for people who had entered the country illegally."

This year, Democrats have again taken the initiative on immigration reform, including spearheading efforts to pass two comprehensive bills in the House and Senate.

In June, the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that would grant the nation's undocumented immigration an eventual path to citizenship. In October, House Democrats introduced a similar immigration bill, which has thus far garnered little Republican support.

As USA Today reported, House committees have approved a handful of bills that deal with immigration enforcement because "House Republican leaders say they would rather move forward with the 'piecemeal' approach in which Congress considers smaller bills that tackle individual pieces of the nation's immigration laws."

However, House Speaker John Boehner has said he will refuse to "allow any House-passed immigration legislation to be blended with the Senate's sweeping reform bill."

In a Miami Herald post about whether Democrats deserve to be blamed for the breakdown of immigration reform, political writer Marc Caputo ventured that while "Democrats bear some blame," he wrote:

You can't blame both sides equally for the death of comprehensive immigration reform this year in Washington, DC. After all, Republicans in the Democrat-led Senate barely backed a bipartisan bill (and Sen. Marco Rubio was raked over the far-right coals for helping usher it). And in the GOP-led House, conservative Republicans have blocked a hearing on the Senate bill or the issue.

He concluded: "Ultimately, Republicans are in charge of the House. And the House has done next to nothing on the issue."

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