The day before Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will end a popular deportation deferral program for undocumented children bought to the United States, POLITICO saw fit to remind us that Breitbart CEO Steven K. Bannon “is free to engage in open combat with fellow Republicans from the outside” as Congress tries to pass a legislative fix.
Bannon successfully blocked comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 in cooperation with Sessions and his former staffer Stephen Miller, who is still a key White House aide. According to POLITICO, Bannon “has told associates he’s prepared to take on both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over immigration this fall” now that he has returned to Breitbart.
It’s a safe bet that Bannon will try to use the same tactics in his fight to deport DREAMers. But with his former allies in new positions, Bannon must first find another senator to repeat the ‘inside game‘ that they played four years ago.
Sessions offered 15 amendments to the bill … the most of which would have gutted its core proposals. (Only one of Sessions’ minor amendments was adopted without being changed). Several times a day his office also circulated materials from law enforcement groups like the ICE union and conservative pundits like Michelle Malkin and Erick Erickson blasting the plan. Sessions himself railed (and railed, and railed…) against the proposal during committee hearings, claiming it would hurt American workers and violate the rule of law.
Stephen Miller “circulated materials” that Breitbart often produced. “He and I and Sessions would spend an enormous amount of time developing plans and messaging and strategy,” Miller told Rosie Gray of The Atlantic. “Also him just covering what we were doing, pushing out narrative and copy. I got to know him, I got to know a lot of his staff, a lot of people who came in to the Breitbart [Washington bureau].” Now he’s in a better position than ever to access and weaponize information, though it’s not clear how close Miller still is to his former mentor in Bannon.
As we saw yesterday, Sessions can still rail against immigrants with the choicest fake facts and white supremacist logic. Did you know that deportation is actually “compassion”? It’s that kind of rationalization that leads to euphemisms like “self-deportation” for early-stage ethnic cleansing.
What Bannon lacks right now is a Republican (Tom Cotton?) to throw legislative obstacles in the way, holding hearings and introducing poisoned pills like Sessions did. He only needs to run out the clock, and that’s why Senate Republicans who support immigration reform are all trying to get it done as quickly as possible.
“It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign,” Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement even before Sessions made Trump’s announcement. “We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign.”
Within hours of the announcement yesterday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and his Democratic colleague Sen. Dick Durban introduced a bill to let DREAMers obtain citizenship.
But Bannon still has an advantage in the US House of Representatives, which — like the Senate — is led by a Republican who voted against the original DREAM Act in 2007. The House is where reform died in 2013, after all.
Not only was then-Speaker John Boehner saddled with an extreme right wing “Freedom Caucus,” Bannon’s nativist organizing allies cowed Republicans with constituent pressure and primary threats, leaving Boehner unable to muster a majority of his own party.
Thus unable to meet the so-called “Hastert rule,” Boehner never allowed a vote on Senate legislation in 2013. Bannon will try to duplicate that outcome with Paul Ryan, a speaker he holds in equal contempt for supposed moderation on the issue.
On the Breitbart front page today, “Angel Mom” Mary Ann Mendoza gripes in the top headline that “politicians” are “fighting for illegal immigrants, not American citizens.” Whereas DACA has allowed tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants to purchase their first car, Mendoza would make it impossible for them to buy cars at all. Next to her prominent picture, seven of the nine top stories of the day are about immigration.
“Immigration Hawks Mobilizing Voters to Shut Down DACA Replacements,” writes John Binder, who calls such efforts “amnesty legislation.”
NumbersUSA Government Relations Director Rosemary Jenks said any forcing of the legislation in the House “would give Paul Ryan an excuse to have the vote.”
Organizations like Americans for Legal Immigration (ALI) PAC and NumbersUSA are calling on voters to flood congressional switchboards to demand the bills be stopped.
ALIPAC, for instance, is asking that voters call their House and Senate representatives to stop the BRIDGE ACT.
Jenks told Breitbart Texas that the organization is asking activists to mobilize and call Senate leaders to demand the DREAM Act not be passed and House leaders not to pass the BRIDGE Act.
For those of you keeping score at home, both of the organizations Binder quoted there are well-known anti-immigrant hate groups.
ALIPAC president William Gheen has compared immigrants to terrorists and Mexican workers to “an invasion,” threatened violent revolution if reform passes, called reform efforts “rape,” asked members to send their dirty underwear to President Obama, and argued that Donald Trump really will be able to make Mexico pay for a border wall.
NumbersUSA is a creation of outspoken white supremacist John Tanton that exists to propagate racist conspiracy theories and demographic anxieties — “white genocide,” in the alt-right lexicon — and lobby for immigration restrictions.
As Breitbart CEO, Steve Bannon played a key role in organizing reactionary outfits like these into a coherent movement that could put Republican members of congress under tremendous pressure. As Trump campaign CEO, Bannon was the linchpin of a similar coalition to elect a president, with immigration being a core issue again. Bannon’s entire career in politics has been about empowering minority rule to keep America majority white.
Bannon rightfully reckons that he has the advantage here, even if the vast majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, because this strategy has never failed him yet. No matter what passes the Senate, a majority of House Republicans must support any bill for Paul Ryan to even bring it to the floor, and Bannon thinks he can win a fight for those “hearts and minds.”
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