Immigration Reform 2013: Reform Gains Cover From Scandal-Focused Washington


There is one upside for President Barack Obama from having the press hound him over the various scandals that have emerged in the previous few weeks. The constant media attention on and yelling from Republican Party over the so-called epidemic of administration scandals has served as an effective smokescreen for Obama's immigration reform efforts. 

Before the scandals broke, the legislative journey of the immigration reform bill dominated the political headlines. But now as the scandals take up increasing amounts of broadsheet space along with internet links, immigration reform is moving with much less fanfare in the public eye, although this may not last long as the bill get closer to President Obama's desk.

The immigration reform bill recently passed one of its first major hurdles, the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a bipartisan 13-5 vote, it was allowed to pass for consideration for the full Senate. All Democrats on the committee voted for the bill to proceed to the full Senate, with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also voting in favor.

In a sign for the bill future in the Senate, two of the Republican senators that voted against the bill indicated that they supported the overall effort. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that if he had been the deciding vote, he would have voted yes instead of no. And Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that he would not join a filibuster when the bill hit the floor. 

And the Senate Judiciary Committee vote came with little fanfare compared to the initial rollout of the bill earlier in the year. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos told Reuters,"It's like magic — you distract the audience while the real trick is being done — and I think right now, while Americans focus on President Obama’s unending difficulties, it's good news for the Gang of Eight working on immigration."

But as the bill goes in front of the full Senate you can expect media scrutiny to increase. A group of conservative media pundits and Tea Party activists sent an open letter to Congress called "The Wrong Way to Immigration Reform." The opposition to the bill will only get louder and more frantic as the bill moves closer towards possibly being passed.

Democratic strategist Jim Maney told Reuters, "The timing of all of this [the scandals] is kind of interesting in that it probably took a bit of heat off the markup in the committee — that doesn't mean the bill's not going to face intense scrutiny on the Senate floor."

But recreating a repeat of 2007, where anti-immigration reform conservative media and the Republican grassroots managed to completely derail and defeat former President George W. Bush's immigration reform effort will be much more difficult this time around.

For one, there is not a united front. Several prominent conservatives are organizing on the pro-immigration reform side to counter the anti-immigration reform push. In a show of strength for the pro-immigration reform conservatives, the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, released a letter that had over 110 conservative economists supporting immigration reform on fiscal grounds.

As the immigration reform bill moves closer to a possible final passage it remains to be seen how much it can avoid the spotlight due to the scandal focus of the media. If the scandals stop pulling in readers or immigration reform opponents make a loud enough uproar, the cover through anonymity may fade away and immigration reform will be back in the spotlight.