The Supreme Court’s ruling Monday against major parts of Arizona’s immigration law highlighted the GOP’s bind on the issue, with Mitt Romney awkwardly equivocating. A leading Arizona Republican sought to ease his party’s troubles by devising a novel claim: that President Obama was to blame for Congress’s failure to pass immigration reform under President Bush.
“I note that in his response to today’s Supreme Court ruling, President Obama called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I also note that the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill I helped draft in 2007 was killed — in part — by then-Senator Obama,” Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ), a Republican leadership member, said in a statement.
The problem: Obama voted in favor of Bush’s 2007 immigration legislation, while Kyl joined the filibuster that quashed it.
The reality was somewhat nuanced because then-Sen. Obama and multiple Democrats opposed guest worker provisions backed by Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce. But the eventual Bush-backed legislation was supported by most Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Fierce attacks from conservatives against any form of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants forced GOP leaders to break with their president.
The motion to advance the bill in June 2007 went down 45-50, falling short of the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. Thirty-eight Democrats and 6 Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), voted in favor, while 38 Republicans, including Kyl, and 11 Democrats blocked it.
Although Obama hasn’t prioritized immigration reform as president, he has championed the cause and supported various Democratic bills to revamp the nation’s immigration laws. They’ve all died at the hands of Republicans, including the DREAM Act in 2010, out of allegiance to the party’s anti-immigration conservative base. But the cause is important to Hispanics, whose votes Republicans need in the general election — or at least they need to stay home. So the party has aimed to paper over this by blaming the Obama White House for failing to reform the system.
Kyl’s allegation takes it to a new level. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.