gridlock in the US Congress

I have been described as a centrist. ….  But sometimes, reality points firmly in one direction. ….

Consider what just happened on immigration …. The leadership of the Republican Party in Congress talked about a comprehensive reform package that would create a lengthy waiting time for citizenship — 13 years — and couple this with tougher enforcement. Most Democrats were willing to accept this compromise.

But it became clear to the GOP leadership that even this would be unacceptable for many tea party Republicans. So, on Jan. 30, party leaders circulated a new proposal …. Instead, these people would merely be given legal documents allowing them to work and pay taxes. This was a huge concession to tea party activists and seemed unlikely to go anywhere. Democrats had been firmly against the concept of permanent second-class status for illegal immigrants. A majority of the public opposes it as well.

But within a few days, President Obama … [made] clear he was not ruling out the proposal.
Every Democrat I spoke with hated the idea, for moral and political reasons. Most were surprised by Obama’s concession. So what happened? A few days later, House Speaker [Republican leader] John Boehner stood in front of the media and explained that even his new plan was a nonstarter and immigration reform was dead.

His explanation was that no one trusted Obama to enforce the laws. But in fact, the Obama administration has enforced immigration laws ferociously. It deported more than 400,000 people in 2012, 2½ times the number in 2002. ….

This suggests a bleak future for getting anything done in Washington. Immigration was supposed to be ripe for common-sense reform. The public is for a compromise solution, policy wonks have proposed ways to make it work, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports it, the country’s leading technology firms have been clamoring for it, senior Democrats and Republicans are in favor. And yet it couldn’t get past the central problem in Washington today: the extreme and obstructionist [tea party] faction within the Republican Party.

Fareed Zakaria, “The party of gridlock“, Washington Post, 14 February 2014.

Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria (born 1964) is editor-at-large of Time Magazine and host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS (Global Public Square). He is author of numerous books, including The Post-American World, Release 2.0 (W.W. Norton, 2011). I learned about this column while listening to a podcast of his  GPS show.


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