Blue Ridge Mountains in Winter

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What Part of ‘No Fence, No Deal’ Does the Senate GOP Not Get?

By Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt
“A fence from left to right, from east to west, except obviously the mountainous areas,” Charles Krauthammer told me on air in an interview in late April.

“We know that fences work,” he continued. “If the president tells you fences don’t work, ask him why he’s got one around the White House.”

Krauthammer is easily the most influential commentator on the center-right today, and his position on the need for a very long border fence is a majority position within the conservative movement and indeed far beyond the movement.

Republicans outside of the Beltway are divided into two camps on immigration reform.

Camp one will accept and indeed many will enthusiastically support immigration reform built around real border security, which has as its centerpiece the construction of a very long double-sided fence with mandated design and location, assured funding and “notwithstanding any other law” authority.

That latter provision is to ensure that the fence will not be impeded by provisions of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. I am in camp one, as I suspect many millions of Republicans are.

Fencing has been promised and even passed in the past but never built except for tiny segments. Thus, the need for specificity and guarantees that are easily produced in a well-written law.

Camp two wants no part of the Senate bill, whether or not it has a fence. John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog, for example, hates the bill and the effort and writes at length and eloquently as to why it is a bad idea.

So people like me in camp one, “the fence people,” are fighting it out on talk radio, on the blogs and in person with people in camp two, the “not now, not this” people.

The Beltway GOP, in yet another display of astonishing indifference to the people who fund it and elect its members, is preparing to anger and alienate both camps.

The Beltway GOP wants to pretend it is meeting the demand of camp one with a variety of ruses and pretend-security provisions, all of which depend upon easily manipulated formulas and transparently absurd guarantees such as an increased numbers of border agents, which can of course be reduced in future years.

There isn’t a single fence advocate who opposes border security measures in addition to the fence, but I haven’t talked with one who believes the bill is worth supporting without a very long, very tall fence built over at least half of the 2,000-mile border.

When Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the Gang of Eight’s first draft, he quite rightly waded into the controversy and listened to the critics. He also, in a display of how legislators are supposed to act, announced he would accept and indeed insist upon amendments to the bill that reflected the key criticisms of the draft law as it emerged from the Judiciary Committee. Camp one was encouraged. The missing fence would appear.

Then Sen. John Cornyn’s proposed “border security” amendment was floated, and camp one was stunned. The Texas Republican’s measure consisted of paragraph after paragraph of glop. No specifics about the fence. No mention of the fence. To all of us, it looked like a huge head fake.

Border security means a fence to the vast majority of conservatives willing to support the reform bill. No fence, no support. Camp one marches into camp two, amazed and disappointed, but resolute that the only thing they must have — real, genuine border security — isn’t part of the Beltway GOP’s agenda.

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