Republicans Stopping Bi-Partisan Immigration Bill And Taking Credit For Projects They Voted Against

Heather Cox Richardson

Former president Trump met with a New York City probation officer today for a pre-sentencing interview. They met over video for a first step in the sentencing process, in which an officer assesses the convicted criminal’s living situation, finances, mental health, addiction, and criminal record. Trump was expected to have his lawyer, Todd Blanche, with him when he linked in from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Judge Juan Merchan will take the information from the interview into account when he sentences Trump. He will also consider that Trump was held in contempt 10 times during the trial for violating the gag order designed to stop him from attacking witnesses and court personnel and their families.

Ever since a New York jury unanimously found the former president guilty of 34 felonies on Thursday, May 30, he and his supporters have tried to assert that he is, in fact, in a strong position for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and for the November election itself. First, they insisted that his convictions made him more popular than ever, an assertion undermined by their own desperate avoidance of other trials and the demands of both Trump and House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to have the Supreme Court somehow step in to overturn a conviction by a state court.

Trump has also tried to reassert dominance by insisting in at least five interviews that he will seek “revenge” on Democrats for prosecuting him, and MAGA loyalists have echoed this threat. But as Greg Sargent pointed out today, this, too, is spin. 

There is a big difference between a prosecution advancing on the basis of evidence gathered by law enforcement, evidence that prompted grand juries to indict Trump, and his own threats to prosecute President Joe Biden and other Democrats simply because he had to endure a prosecution, not because there is any evidence that they have committed crimes. The first serves the rule of law, the second shatters it.

Since the conviction, as political analyst Simon Rosenberg points out, the right-wing Murdoch media empire “has gone into hyperdrive.” That empire, which includes the Fox News Channel, supports Trump and knowingly lied that the 2020 election had been stolen. On June 4, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal printed a story saying that “behind closed doors, Biden shows signs of slipping,” but the piece quoted only former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who previously had hammered Biden in public but privately assured colleagues he was mentally sharp.

One of the authors of the piece sparked outrage in October 2021 by tweeting that Biden, who was visiting the graves of his dead children and wife, “goes to church and walks through a graveyard in Wilmington as his legislative agenda is dying in Washington.” 

In November 2021, Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. In June 2022 he signed into law the Safer Communities Act, a gun safety law. In August 2022 he signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act that invested billions in semiconductor manufacturing and science, and the Inflation Reduction Act that provided record funding for addressing climate change and permitted Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices. Together, those legislative accomplishments rival those of Presidents Lyndon Baines Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose congressional majorities were far stronger than Biden’s.

The Republicans’ frantic pushback on Trump’s conviction reveals both that it has hurt him badly, and that without Trump projecting the dominance of a strongman, they have little to fall back on except for personal attacks on Biden. 

Trump had counted on using immigration against Biden and ordered his loyalists to scuttle the bipartisan immigration measure the Senate hammered out in February in order to keep the issue alive. Swing voters took notice: in March a focus group showed that 9 out of 13 Wisconsin swing voters blamed Trump for killing the bill.

As soon as that measure failed, the administration began to talk of what Biden could do through an executive order, despite believing that such an order would be challenged in the courts. At the same time, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continued their pressure on the Mexican government to increase its own immigration enforcement. That process worked, and undocumented migration has dropped sharply at the southern border. Meanwhile, the administration’s parole program for people from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba has cut undocumented migration from those countries by almost 90%. 

Then on Tuesday, June 4, likely trying to get ahead of the usual summer rise in immigration, and after Senate Republicans once again killed the bipartisan border measure,  Biden issued an executive order permitting him to seal the southern border temporarily when undocumented crossings surge to more than 2,500 a day, a restriction stricter than that negotiated in the Senate measure Trump scuttled. This order looks more like Trump’s effort to curb migration—one that courts blocked—at least in part because without legislation, there is no new funding to provide the additional courts the administration wants in order to move asylum cases faster. 

As predicted, the order is likely to face legal challenges. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who worked with Senator James Lankford (R-OK) on the Senate immigration bill, wrote in a statement: “I am sympathetic to the position the administration is in, but I am skeptical [that] the executive branch has the legal authority to shut down asylum processing between ports of entry on its own. Meaningful asylum reform requires a bipartisan solution in Congress.” 

Nonetheless, while Trump continues to demagogue immigration issues, the charge that Biden wants “open borders”—which was always disinformation—is now harder to make. 

Meanwhile, the measures Democrats advocate are so popular that Republican legislators are taking credit for projects funded by them even though they voted against the laws themselves. Katherine Tully-McManus of Politico pointed out today that Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will deliver nearly $470 million to her district. She has attended a highway ribbon cutting and boasted of the modernization of locks and dams on the Mississippi River in her district despite her “no” vote.

Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) called the infrastructure law a “socialist wish list” and a “fiasco” but nonetheless celebrated a federal grant for nearly $26 million to invest in public transit in her district. 

This credit-taking is widespread among those who opposed the law. Just this weekend, Trump falsely asserted that it was he, not Biden, who lowered the cost of insulin to $35 a month. In fact, it was Biden who signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act that made such negotiations possible.

There is little else for Trump to stand on. The Republicans’ position on abortion is so unpopular that when Trump spoke today to the Danbury Institute, which calls for abortion to be “eradicated entirely,” he never mentioned the word abortion. Instead of delivering a keynote address, he spoke for less than two minutes and said that the attendees “can’t vote Democrat” because “[t]hey’re against religion.” 

Democrats pushed back on the Wall Street Journal’s article attacking Biden, calling it a “hit piece” and noting that their own quotations did not make the cut. Observers pointed out that reporters jump on Biden’s speech while Trump’s jumbled and offensive statements—like his crazy hash of MIT, electric batteries, boats, and sharks yesterday—rarely get reproduced.

The Biden campaign is addressing that lack with a new ad campaign, one that deliberately punctures the idea of Trump as a strongman. One ad shows foreign leaders laughing at Trump’s statements, and another, directed at Latino voters, shows Trump last week kissing former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned after his conviction related to racial profiling. Another ad from the Biden campaign in the wake of the 80th anniversary of D-Day focuses on Trump’s quotations mocking the military as suckers and losers and quoting some of his other offensive statements about those who serve. 

Finally, the Biden team rushed to produce an ad today using Trump’s own words from a rally this weekend in the broiling Nevada desert in which he said he didn’t want people to keel over because: “We need every voter. I don’t care about you. I just want your vote. I don’t care.”

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