Every month, the Heritage Foundation gathers a strike force of House Republicans for an hourlong public meeting—“Conversations With Conservatives.” For the last few months, inevitably, a reporter has asked Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador to talk about immigration reform. He mentions a few dealbreakers that the White House might force on Republicans. Lather, rinse, repeat.
There was something new to talk about today. One reporter asked Labrador about new comments from Rep. Steve King, the deliciously quotable Iowa six-termer who’s running a team of anti-reform conservatives. King was up at a hearing on a possible GOP version of the DREAM Act (the “KIDS Act,” they call it), and upset the GOP’s careful messaging by insisting that “for everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” So, what would Labrador say to him?
“Shame on you,” Labrador told the reporter. “Shame on the media for only concentrating on that aspect of that. Now, if you were saying that as part of a story, then you would be actually showing the truth of what’s happening in Congress.” But the media, for some reason, kept focusing on “reprehensible” comments like King’s. “He represents a very small minority. If you’re going to talk about a hearing ilke yesterday’s, make sure what you talk about everyone said in that hearing, not what one outlier said.”
Across town, at the Center for American Progress, Sen. Bob Menendez was telling liberals about the possibilities for immigration reform. “The journey will be ugly,” he said, “as represented by Congressman King’s comments. I can’t believe comments like that are made in this century.”
The two would-be reformers talked right past each other. Labrador was trying to make the case for the GOP’s piecemeal bills. Menendez insisted that any piecemeal bill could become an omnibus bill, with some doing. “Get us to a conference,” he said at CAP. “In a conference, we can negotiate the notion of bringing all those bills together and get to common ground.” Democrats are more aware of how Republicans are embarrassing themselves than why they’re scared of reform bills—because they think they’ll lose in conference.