New Appointee Braswell is Lone GOP Vote Against School Choice

David Braswell

For children who are trapped in failing schools, there are few choices and very few ways out of their bad schools.  Parents can pack their belongings, sell their home, and move to a new school district, but in today’s economy only the financially fortunate have that option, and they are usually already living in good school districts.  So Republican State Representative Rick Murphy introduced HCR2057, which would give a voucher to parents of kids stuck in failing schools that would allow them to transfer to a better school, even if it is a private or parochial school.

The concept is simple, and one that conservatives have rallied around for years.  There is no excuse for forcing children into failing schools.  It is, quite simply, morally inexcusable.  Defenders of the status quo, or those who put the interests of the education unions and bureaucracy before the needs of the children argue that all school districts need to improve is more time and more money, and that removing the kids hurts the district.  Yet after hundreds of billions of dollars, decades of time, and millions of children graduated from public schools who lacked the fundamental skills needed to read their own diplomas, that excuse is no longer credible.

Yet that argument is what the voters of LD6 are being treated to by newly appointed State Senator David Braswell.  Braswell was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Pamela Gorman resigned to run for Congress.  Gorman would have been a Yes vote on the measure, but Braswell is a longtime school board President who makes his living selling computer software to school districts.  So it came as no surprise that Braswell looked after the bureaucracy rather than the students.

Ironically, the bill’s author Rick Murphy, also sits on a school board, but he apparently considers his responsibility to be looking after the best interests of the students.  Fortunately for the children of Arizona, Murphy was able to overcome the united opposition of Braswell and the committee Democrats, and the bill passed.  While it faces several remaining hurdles before it can reach the ballot, those kids passing the prospect of another long year in a failing school have hope again.  No thanks to liberals like Republican David Braswell.

Shadegg Opposes Auto Bailout, Proposes Taxpayer Bailouts

Congressman Shadegg has introduced a couple bills that will help real Americans, not the auto industry. Nice to see there are still some good ideas coming out of Washington. Here is his release:

Shadegg Opposes Auto Bailout, Proposes Taxpayer Bailouts

Shadegg: “I believe taxpayers should decide which businesses survive and which need to be restructured to remain competitive.”

Washington, DC— Congressman John Shadegg today issued the following statement last night after voting against the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act (H.R. 7321) and instead, introducing two economic alternatives:

“If anyone needs a bailout in this economy it’s the American taxpayer. Politicians shouldn’t be picking winners and losers; the American people should.

“I voted against the massive auto industry bailout, not because I don’t care about America’s auto industry, or the workers in that industry, but because I believe taxpayers should decide which businesses survive and which need to be restructured to remain competitive.

“The American people, those in the auto industry, and those in every other industry need help right now. While I would favor permanent tax relief, I also believe a substantial tax holiday will do more to stimulate our economy than another taxpayer-funded bailout. Average Americans, not politicians, should determine which companies deserve to be rewarded and which do not. The banking industry bailout enacted just weeks ago has proven that Washington is clueless when it comes to the American economy. And, it’s been a spectacular failure.

The bills I introduced today would stimulate the economy and be a tremendous boon for every struggling American family. Under the first proposal, individuals making less than $125,000, or couples making up to $250,000, in 2008 would owe no income taxes. Taxes withheld to date would be refunded to these taxpayers to use as they see fit. Those making over these amounts would pay income tax at 5% below the otherwise applicable rate. The alternate bill, would suspend both payroll and income taxes for the first six months of 2009.

These plans would return, on average, roughly $5,700 to $6,400 to each taxpayer. Either would cost dramatically less than the bloated $7 trillion bailout packages peddled by congressional Democrats and the Bush Administration.

“The federal government has demonstrated utter incompetence in solving our nation’s economic problems over the past three months. It’s time to put the control of our economy back in the hands of the American people.”

Pelosi’s Head Fake

Democrats felt the heat from constituents during the 5-week Congressional summer break. Instead of doing something real – which is what Americans expect – Pelosi is putting a bill on the floor on Tuesday that, if passed into law, would ultimately fail to produce one drop of oil.

The reason? She knows that her allies in the radical environmentalist movement will be lined up to sue on every attempt to drill. Want proof? Just look at the record. The following information comes from Congressman John Shadegg – demonstrating that he continues to stay completely engaged in the public policy fight, even while engaged in an active campaign.

Take a look at the information, and it’s no wonder our gas prices remain high and we continue our over-reliance on foreign oil.

Prepared by the Office of Congressman John Shadegg

    LEGAL CHALLENGES BY ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS ARE BLOCKING OR SIGNIFICANTLY DELAYING OIL LEASES AND PRODUCTION

Radical environmentalists challenged every lease in the Chuckchi Sea:

• The Administration issued 487 leases in the Chuckchi Sea Sale 193 in February 2008.
• The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and other radical environmental organizations, in January 2008, filed a pre-emptive suit challenging all 487 leases under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
• Status: Currently pending. (U.S. District Court Alaska; Case No. 1:08-cv-0004-RRB)

Radical environmentalists challenged the entire 2007-2012 5-year national OCS leasing program:

• The Administration, in July 2007, proposed a national schedule to issue oil leases over a 5-year period (2007-2012) in the outer continental shelf, including Alaska.
• The Center for Biological Diversity and other radical environmental organizations immediately filed suit challenging all existing leases and all future leases under the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and various other laws.
• Status: Currently pending. (U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia; Case NO. 07-1247)

Radical environmentalists challenged exploration activities of every lease in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas:
• There are 748 leases which lie in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas
• The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other radical environmental organizations, in May 2008, sued, challenging all seismic activity at all 748 leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
• Status: Currently pending. (U.S. District Court of Alaska; Case No. 1:08-cv-0001-RRB; U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; Case No. 08-35571)

Radical environmentalists block proposed drilling plans:

• On February 15, 2007, the Minerals Management Service approved the proposed exploration plan for 12 leases in the Beaufort Sea.
• The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resource Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and other radical environmental organizations sued in April 2007 and obtained a court order halting drilling on all 12 leases. This order has already stopped activity for two years.
• Status: Currently pending. (U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; Case No. 07-71457)

Radical environmentalists sue under FOIA seeking evidence for use in future litigation to block all leases:

• The Administration issued 487 leases in the Chukchi Sea Sale 193 in February 2008
• The Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resource Defense Council, in January 2008, sued under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking documents for their effort to stop all oil exploration and production.
• Status: Currently pending. (U.S. District Court of Alaska; Case No. 3:08-cv-00159-RRB)

Radical environmentalists protest every lease in BLM New Mexico State Office lease sale:

• On July 16, 2008, the BLM New Mexico State Office auctioned 78 leases in New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
• The Western Environmental Law Center and the Wild Earth Guardians preemptively, on July 1, 2008, administratively challenged all 78 leases under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. (43 CFR 3120.1-3)
• Status: Currently pending. (Bureau of Land Management)

Radical environmentalists block a majority of oil and gas leases in the Rocky Mountain States:

• In 2007, approximately 50% of the oil and gas leases in the Rocky Mountain States were administratively challenged. (Bureau of Land Management)
• In Utah alone, oil and gas development on millions of acres is being held up by environmental groups. (U.S. District Court, Utah Central; Case No. 2:04CV574 DAK)

More on Shadegg – will he stay?

The boys at RedState.com are calling on conservatives to join them in encouraging Congressman John Shadegg to stay in the U.S. House to continue the conservative fight:

We at Redstate wholeheartedly concur with those who circulated the letter – Reps. Pence, Hensarling, and Hoekstra – and with the other 130+ House GOPers’ call for Mr. Shadegg to run for reelection and to remain in office. These are critical times for our nation, and Washington needs leaders of his caliber.

The Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune have coverage here and here.  Look for a growing crescendo of support for Shadegg to stay in the House.  National conservative leaders are worried that losing someone of Shadegg’s caliber will hurt the overall movement. 

WOW!

Breaking from Roll Call:

130 Colleagues Urge Shadegg to Stay

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008; 7:29 pm

 

Motivated by a letter signed by more than 130 of his House GOP colleagues urging him to forgo retirement and run for re-election, Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) could be reconsidering his decision to call it quits upon the conclusion of his current term, a well-placed Republican source said late Thursday.

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), comes in response to Shadegg’s surprise decision, announced Monday, not to seek an eighth House term. Pence, a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee — a caucus of conservative House Republicans — followed Shadegg in that post.

“As your colleagues, your fellow conservatives, and your friends, we sincerely ask that you reconsider your decision to retire from Congress,” reads the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Roll Call. “John, you continue to inspire, embolden, and lead. The Republican Conference needs you here, the Conservative Movement needs you here, and the country needs you here. Please reconsider.”

The letter was circulating on Capitol Hill on Thursday, although Shadegg had yet to officially receive it, according to the source, who nevertheless said that the “unprecedented” nature of so many Members appealing for Shadegg to reconsider was giving him pause.

“Never before have more than 130 members signed a letter asking a fellow Member to stay,” the source said. “I’m sure [Shadegg] takes that seriously.”

Shadegg raised more than $1 million in 2007 to close the year with $864,000 on hand, and had given every indication that he was going to run for re-election this year in his Republican-leaning, suburban Phoenix 3rd district. In the wake of his retirement announcement Monday, a half-dozen Republicans were contemplating running for his seat. Attorney Bob Lord, who had banked more than $500,000 at the end of 2007, is the likely Democratic nominee.

Late last year, House Republican leaders tried to persuade Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) to reverse the retirement announcement he had made early in the fall, but he has yet to do so.

— David M. Drucker

 

Lord Needs Help From On High

The latest FEC reports should put to rest any of the speculation that Bob Lord will be competitive against Congressman John Shadegg in CD 3.

Lord garnered attention early in the year when he filed with just over $120,000 for the first quarter, while Shadegg filed just $19,000.  Obviously, Shadegg was not expecting an early challenge, but quickly bounced back, raising a whopping $312,000 and ending the 2nd quarter with $50,000 more cash-on-hand than Lord.

Now, the year-end reports paint a very clear picture:  Bob Lord doesn’t have a chance in hell (or in heaven) to beat John Shadegg.

Shadegg raised a stunning $495,000 in the fourth quarter – more than any other candidate in the state when you subtract any personal candidate money loaned (ie, Schweikert).  Lord, with a top-tier fundraising event in D.C. with the DCCC Chairman and with a major event with Governor Janet Napolitano during the fourth quarter managed to only scrape together $211,000.  When an incumbent – and a popular one at that – ends the off-year with a $360,000 cash-on-hand advantage, turn the lights out, the party is over.

If anyone doubts the desperation of the Democrats in the face of the fundraising onslaught by Shadegg, just take a look at the attacks they have launched against him in the last two weeks.  They fed a bogus story to their in-house press operation (the Arizona Republic) attacking Shadegg’s ethics (a clear non-starter with anyone who has followed Shadegg’s career), filed a frivolous complaint with the FEC about the bogus allegation, attacked Shadegg’s contributors, attacked his vote against the stimulus package and then launched thousands of robocalls into his district to take that attack directly to voters.

Shadegg’s response was a good-natured jab at the Democrats, thanking them for communicating his position to voters in his district and suggesting that they may need to file an in-kind contribution with the FEC because it directly supports his re-election.

So, why all the attacks in the last two weeks?  The only explanation is that Shadegg’s campaign put out a press release in the middle of January reporting his huge fundraising quarter and announcing that he would be filing with an eye-popping $863,000 cash-on-hand.  When that got out, the choking sound down on Indian School was Bob Lord spitting up his morning coffee.  Democrat spinster, Emily Bitnner’s head was about to explode and the out-of-state-manager-that-beat-a-Pennsylvania-Republican-incumbent-who-strangled-his-mistress Drew Eldredge-Martin (what guy has a hyphenated last name?  Oh, I guess we have to ask Jeff Hatch-Miller) realized that managing a campaign in 2006 against a weak Republican incumbent who HAD POLICE CHARGES FILED AGAINST HIM (and still only lost by a smallish margin), was very different than coming into Arizona and trying to manage the campaign of a little-known leftist Democrat against a popular incumbent in a very safe Republican seat.  Essentially, they went into full panic mode and the mudfest began.

Bottom line?  In Presidential year, in a district that gave Bush 58% of the vote in 2004 and Shadegg nearly 60% of the vote in 2006, this district is staying deep red.  But there will be plenty of mud to clean off as the Democrats try to keep up the facade of a real race.

Returning to Reagan

A small group of solid conservative Members of Congress have launched an effort to return to the principles of Ronald Reagan.  This is sorely needed in the Republican ranks in D.C.  One of the more significant developments of this effort is that all Members who have joined the group have pledged to not seek earmarks.  Given that there were only eight members of Congress who don’t seek earmarks before (including Congressmen Shadegg and Flake) this is a step in the right direction. 

The Members at the press conference announcing what they are calling “Reagan21” included Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint and Congressmen John Shadegg, Jeb Hensarling, Tom Price, Paul Ryan and John Campbell.

Congressman Shadegg posted an announcement about the effort on Red State.  Here are a couple excerpts:
 

The choices for America have never been clearer.  On almost every issue, Democrats and the left are promoting more government ownership and control, pushing America closer to a welfare state.  All of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls are running on a decidedly collectivist and socialistic leaning platform…

Americans need a clear alternative to the Democrats radical agenda.  Reagan 21 is composed of individual Americans, including Congressmen and Senators, who are committed to fight for Reagan’s principles of liberty and America’s vision of individual freedom, free enterprise, and common-sense traditional values… 

These are the principles of liberty that will once again make the party of Ronald Reagan the party that will guide America’s future…

Americans need to know that there are some in Congress, and across the country, still committed to freedom, and anyone who shares these principles will be welcome to join Reagan 21 and participate in its activities…

I encourage you to join us in this effort.  You read can more about Reagan 21 by going to www.reagan21.org.  

 The other Members who are a part of Reagan21 include Sen. Richard Burr and Congressmen (and women): Michele Bachman (MN), Gresham Barrett (SC), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Eric Cantor (VA), Jeff Flake (AZ), Virginia Foxx (NC), Trent Franks (AZ), Patrick McHenry (NC), Marilyn Musgrave (CO), Peter Roskam (IL), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA).

Long Overdue

One of the great economists of our time, Walter Williams, has a great column in the Washington Times.  Some excerpts:

In each new Congress since 1995, Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican, has introduced the proposed Enumerated Powers Act (HR 1359). The bill, yet to be enacted into law, reads: “Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief.”

Just a few of the numerous statements by our Founders demonstrate that their vision and the vision of Mr. Shadegg’s Enumerated Powers Act are one and the same. James Madison, in explaining the Constitution in Federalist Paper No. 45, said, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.”

I’m sure that if Founders such as Madison, Jefferson or John Adams were campaigning for the 2008 presidential elections, expressing their vision of the federal government’s role, today’s Americans would run them out of town on a rail. Does that hostility reflect constitutional ignorance whereby the average American thinks the Constitution authorizes Congress to do anything upon it can get a majority vote on or anything that’s a good idea? Or, are Americans contemptuous of the constitutional limitations placed on the federal government?

I salute the bravery of Mr. Shadegg and the 28 co-sponsors of the Enumerated Powers Act. They face a monumental struggle. Congress is not alone in its constitutional contempt, but is joined by the White House and particularly the constitutionally derelict U.S. Supreme Court.

Good to know that Arizona continues to have conservative, Constitutionally-minded representation.

Live from Reno, it’s Saturday (Night)!

The Conservative Leadership Conference has been underway since Thursday.  While Sonoran Alliance isn’t “live blogging” from the site, other good conservative bloggers are.  The Arizona connection is that the Honorary Chairman of the CLC is Congressman John Shadegg.  The engine behind CLC is the indefatigable, conservative-extraodinare Chuck Muth.  It’s been his goal to build a “CPAC for the West.”

Edward Morrissey’s “Captain Quarter’s” blog (one of the big –time national blogs in the conservative movement) is live blogging on the speeches and presentations at CLC.  His coverage of the previous couple days has been exhaustive and worth the read.

Here is his take on Congressman Shadegg’s speech this afternoon.  And he’ll have coverage of J.D. Hayworth’s speech later this afternoon.

 

John Shadegg addresses the CLC after an introduction by Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV), who sat on yesterday’s 2008 prognostication panel with me. Heller calls Shadegg a “true exception” to the stereotype of politicians who lose their way once they get to Washington. I met with Rep. Shadegg earlier this morning, and I found him very approachable, humble, and gracious, so that description seems particularly apt…
[Shadegg] also complimented the CLC organizers for sticking to their guns and holding the conference this far outside of DC…
When they reached DC in 1994, people warned that the Beltway would change them, and not the other way around. Shadegg says they were proven right; they became the party of Jack Abramoff and earmarks. The culture of corruption eroded their credibility and their efficacy. Freshman Republicans were told to spend 98% of their time raising money, and to load up on earmarks for their home districts.
“There is no amount of money in the world that will elect a party without principles.” By 2006, the Republicans became the Washington they intended to defeat in 1994.
We still have to clean our own house first. Republicans need to exemplify a standard of conduct that will allow them to regain the trust of the electorate. That means abandoning incumbents who act unethically. It means real reform, real transparency, and a thorough house-cleaning that will set an example the Democrats simply won’t meet.
Shadegg hits Democrats especially hard on earmark reform. They have championed a process that will only make earmarks transparent after they spend the money. Without transparency, earmarks and their corrosive effects cannot be stopped. They will still have the ability to manipulate the voters and Congress through the exploitation of taxpayers funds.
Shadegg is a very effective speaker, and he has everyone’s attention. I haven’t heard him speak in person before, and I’m very impressed. Sean Hackbarth called the speech “further confirmation that the Republicans chose the wrong leadership,” and although I think John Boehner has done a good job, it’s hard not to draw that conclusion.

 

(Race) Blind Justice

One of my favorite conservative commentators, Thomas Sowell, has a great column today about one of my favorite Judges, Clarence Thomas.

It is hard to believe that it was exactly 16 years ago that many a conservative of my generation sat riveted to the TV screen during Thomas’ confirmation hearings.  We didn’t quite remember the Bork hearings, but we knew that the experience of Judge Bork made the Thomas hearings that much more important.  The overreach by the left (and their Democrat allies in the Senate) are largely forgotten, but there is no doubt that the Thomas hearings were in the minds of voters in the 1994 elections (particularly after seeing the judicial picks of Clinton).

Here are a few excerpts of the Sowell piece, but it is worth reading the entire thing:

In an era when too many judges, including justices of the Supreme Court, seem to be playing to the media gallery — if not writing opinions or leaking information with an eye toward favorable coverage in the press — Justice Thomas’s refusal to play that game tells us a lot about him.His memoir tells us more. Born in material poverty beyond anything experienced even by people on welfare today, Clarence Thomas was raised with an abundance of discipline and character-building that would pay off in later life…

The other great myth about Justice Thomas is that he is a lonely and embittered man, withdrawn from the world, as a result of the brutal confirmation hearings he went through back in 1991.

Clarence Thomas was never a social butterfly. You didn’t see his name in the society pages or at media events, either before he got on the High Court or afterward.

In reality, Justice Thomas has been all over the place, giving talks, especially to young people, and inviting some of them to his offices at the Supreme Court.

Summers find him driving his own bus all around the country, mixing with people at truck stops, trailer parks, and mall parking lots. The fact that he is not out grandstanding for the media does not mean that he is hunkering down in his cellar.
Clarence Thomas’s sense of humor is terrific. Whenever I am on the phone with someone and laughing repeatedly, my wife usually asks me afterward, “Was that Clarence?” It usually is.

Now, thanks to his book, the public can get to know the man himself, rather than the cardboard image created by the media.

Thomas is misunderstood, and still hated by the left.  But he wears that disdain as a badge of honor, because every day that he walks into the Supreme Court he knows that he can be a force for good, and the leftist who tried to destroy him can do nothing about it.  He is a consistent voice of reason and a true constructionist on the court.  And we are a better nation to have him there.

Coordinated Deceit

Today’s Arizona Republic is a perfect example of the coordination of Democrat politicians and their allies in the media.  In a top-of-the-fold story in the Valley and State section, reporter Matt Benson writes a heavily-tilted story with the clear intent of promoting the Democrat talking points about their attempt to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Benson sets up the story in the classic “for the children” argument – even getting Gov. Napolitano to say exactly that: “We’re talking about health insurance for children here.”

Then Rep. Mitchell gets to chime in calling the veto “unconscionable” and “Every child should have health insurance.” 

Benson then makes sure to point out that Arizona ranks fourth-worst for its percentage of uninsured children, but makes nary a mention about the huge illegal alien population in the state which drives that number.

Congressman John Shadegg is quoted as saying that the Democrat proposal was “not directed at uninsured poor or nearly poor children.” However, there is no explanation from Benson of why that is.  Conveniently left out of the story are very important facts about the Democrat bill:  it would do nothing about the problem of state’s covering adults – including childless adults (remember, this is the Children’s Health Insurance Program), it covers children in families earning as much as $83,000 per year (not exactly poor, or near poor), and it uses a massive 61-cent-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes to help pay for this expansion.

Tim Bee gets a cameo quote, which was likely a set-up by Benson so that Giffords can try to use it against him in the event he officially runs against her.

The capstone of the deceit in the story comes near the end when Benson writes “Shadegg suggested that the expansion would lead to more people dumping private coverage in favor of government assistance.”  As Benson writes it, it makes it sound like Shadegg pulled that out of thin air – just made it up.  What Benson failed to write was that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office study shows that, under the Democrat proposal, for every child added to the rolls of SCHIP, one child will leave private coverage – a direct one-to-one correlation.

After quoting Shadegg about people leaving private coverage, Benson writes the following line: “Mitchell called that claim a “scare tactic” and “phony argument.””

Hence, Mitchell shows that he is not above deceit in order to follow the Democrat marching orders.  We’ll wait to see the next time Mitchell tries to use analysis from CBO to advance whatever argument he is making – then we can tell him that he is using a “scare tactic” and a “phony argument.”

Unwarranted Cover

Freedom’s Watch, the group that has run some great ads demonstrating the importance of the U.S. effort in Iraq, has another effective ad airing.  It takes a broadside at MoveOn.org for the New York Times ad that criticized General Petraeus.  In the opening screenshot, the narrator intones that “political leaders and newspapers have been condemning the radical liberal group MoveOn.org…” while you see a graphic of the United States with the photos of six people: Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and…. (record scratch as the music stops)… Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). Huh?

(To see the ad go here)

It reminds me of the Sesame Street game “which one is not like the other?”  Why a good, conservative (presumably Republican) group would highlight a freshman liberal Democrat Congresswoman among five Senators is beyond me.  But it certainly doesn’t help the Republican efforts to unseat her next year. In fact, it provides her unwarranted political cover.

The only possible nexus is that it is rumored that the political consultant group Jamestown Associates is producing the ads.  They have had close ties to former Rep. Jim Kolbe, who was a bit of a fan of Gabby in the last election.  Are they angling for some business from Giffords?  Time will tell.

Getting the message, exposing the truth

The White House today announced administrative actions to further secure the border using laws already on the books.
Finally, they appear to get it.  But, it also exposes the truth of why so much of the rhetoric during the debate on the Senate immigration bill rang hollow.  To wit, you’ll notice many of the items below sound very familiar.  That is because most of them were a part of the Senate bill as the “triggers” that would have to be met before implementing the formalized Z-visa program and the new guest worker program.
So it turns out that we DIDN’T need to pass a new law to enforce the border.  Glad the Administration recognizes that now, unfortunately, it’s almost six years too late.
Announcement excerpted below, for the full announcement, go here.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Kennebunkport, Maine)
 
________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                            August 10, 2007
 
Improving Border Security and Immigration Within Existing Law
 
Today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff And Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez Announced A Series Of Reforms The Administration Will Pursue To Address Border Security And Immigration Challenges.  The following reforms represent steps the Administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to secure our borders more effectively, improve interior and worksite enforcement, streamline existing guest worker programs, improve the current immigration system, and help new immigrants assimilate into American culture.
BORDER SECURITY
1.       The Administration Will Continue To Strengthen Security At The Border With Additional Personnel And Infrastructure.  We are committed to implementing the following border security measures by December 31, 2008:
*        18,300 Border Patrol agents
*        370 miles of fencing
*        300 miles of vehicle barriers
*        105 camera and radar towers
*        Three additional UAVs
 
We will also work to ensure that 1,700 more Border Patrol Agents and an additional UAV are added in 2009.
 
2.       The Administration Will Maintain The Policy Of “Catch And Return” For Illegal Aliens Apprehended At The Border. 
 
*      The Administration Will Further Increase Funding For Detention Beds So There Are Places To Detain 31,500 Illegal Aliens Until They Can Be Returned.
3.       The Departments Of State And Homeland Security Will Strengthen Legal Efforts To Keep International Gang Members Out Of The United States. 
 
4.       The Administration Will Expand Exit Requirements So Persons Who Overstay Limited-Duration Visits To The United States Can Be Identified.  
 
*      By The End Of 2008, The US-VISIT Exit Requirement Will Be Underway At All U.S. Airports And Seaports.  The Department of Homeland Security will continue to explore effective and cost-efficient means of establishing biometric exit requirements at land border crossings.
 
5.       The Administration Will Require All Travelers To Our Ports Of Entry To Use Passports Or Other Similar Secure Documents. 
 
6.       Beginning This Fall, The Secretary Of Homeland Security Will Deliver Regular “State Of The Border” Reports. These reports will keep the American people informed of the Federal Government’s progress in
 
The release then goes on to outline various efforts on the follwing issues:
INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT
WORKSITE ENFORCEMENT
STREAMLINING EXISTING GUEST-WORKER PROGRAMS
IMPROVING EXISTING IMMIGRATION
ASSIMILATION

Shadegg vs. Kyl

            If the Senate bill fails, it will be in part because of the work on Congressman John Shadegg.  (Who has an excellent piece on National Review Online today.)

            Many pundits and hill staff have speculated that the vote by the House Republican Conference disapproving of the Senate bill will have an impact on the cloture vote in the Senate.  After seeing so much opposition among House Republicans, some Senators are realizing that a yes vote may have serious consequences.

            There is more information coming from the Hill about the inside story on the Conference Resolution passed Tuesday night.  It turns out that it was Congressman Shadegg’s idea and he had circulated resolution text two weeks ago.  According to Conference rules, for a resolution to be brought before the conference, it must have 25 signatures.  According to insiders, Shadegg collected the 25 signatures in one afternoon and when he went to leadership they decided to get out in front of the mob and call it a parade.

       As is typical, the leadership resolution isn’t as good as what Shadegg originally circulated for signature.  And, leadership officially gave the revised resolution to Rep. Peter Hoekstra to carry in the conference.  You can bet Republican Whip Roy Blunt didn’t want to give Shadegg any credit.  Here is the text of the original resolution:

Republican Conference Resolution
on the Senate’s Immigration Legislation
 June __, 2007Whereas the Founders intended Congress to be a deliberative body;

Whereas the Founders intended Congress to be a deliberative body;Whereas the U.S. House of Representatives is constitutionally the House closest to the people;

Whereas Members of the Republican Conference represent diverse constituencies and hold many different concerns and viewpoints about immigration reform;

Whereas the problem of illegal immigration has been developing for decades, and the two previous legislative initiatives promised border security and no future amnesty, but failed to deliver what was promised;

Whereas the Senate immigration bill has been drafted and negotiated without a public hearing process;

Whereas the Senate forced a “take it or leave it” immigration bill of more than 300 pages in an expedited fashion;

Whereas this legislation contains items that cannot be implemented for years, including border enforcement, secure identification, overstay plans, employer enforcement and certainly includes inadequate funding to implement the procedures, while at the same time offering immediate legal status for at least 12 million illegal aliens

Whereas the lack of realistic, funded, border and enforcement strategies combined with past immigration law failures – especially when combined with the lack of hearings, unwillingness to compromise, and forced speed with which the Senate bill was considered – has resulted in a general perception in America that Congress has ignored the public will; and

Whereas the Senate immigration bill is deeply flawed in a number of ways including:

(1) allowing illegal aliens to obtain probationary benefits of the so-called Z-visa the business day following their application for such benefits even if their background check is not complete;

(2) not allowing employers to use the Employment Eligibility Verification System to verify the work eligibility of a prospective employee until after hiring the employee and, if the employee is deemed not eligible, the employer cannot fire the employee if the employee pursues an appeal process;

(3) allowing illegal aliens who have repeatedly violated U.S. law and engaged in identity fraud to gain legal status;

(4) treating illegal aliens significantly more favorably and with much greater benefits than guest workers.

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the House Republican Conference –

(1)   opposes the Senate immigration bill in its present form;

(2)   will continue to oppose the legislation until, at a minimum, there has been a full and open process of subcommittee and full committee hearings and mark-ups in the House, and the legislation comes to the House floor for a full, open and deliberate debate to address the flaws in the current bill.

 

Shadegg working against the Senate immigration bill that Kyl negotiated is probably one of the most significant splits between the two in the last 15 years.  People say they have a good relationship, but I have to believe the strain is on right now. 

URGENT ACTION NOTICE!

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., second from right, meets with House Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 26, 2007, that are opposed to immigration reform legislation being considered in the Senate. Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., is second from left, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., is at center, and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. is at right. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

 Word from Capital Hill is that the House Republicans are holding a special Conference meeting at 5:30 p.m. today (2:30 AZ time) to vote on the following resolution: “Resolved the House Republican Conference disapproves of the Senate immigration bill.”

 In a Conference meeting this morning, a quorum was not present, so when Intelliegence Committee Ranking Member Peter Hoekstra (MI) introduced the resolution, they debated it, but no action was taken.  Insiders say that the Hoekstra, Arizona’s own John Shadegg and Indiana’s Mark Souder spoke in favor of the resolution.  You can reach any member of Congress by dialing (202) 225-3121 and asking for their office.

Following the conference meeting this morning, Hoekstra, Shadegg, Souder and some other House Republicans held a press conference and were joined by Senators Tom Coburn (OK) and Jim DeMint (SC), both of whom have been leading the fight in the Senate against the bill.

Politico.com covers the story here.

You action needed now!

UPDATE:

The House Republican Conference passed the resolution 114-23!  Still awaiting word on who the 23 were (we may never know).  Also interesting that more than 60 Republican members did not vote.

Voice of Reason

Congressman John Shadegg has this piece in today’s Arizona Republic.

The recent personal attacks leveled at Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl are inappropriate and counterproductive. It is appropriate for any of us to express our views on the merits or flaws of any proposed legislation. However, personal attacks or challenges of individuals’ honor or patriotism are unbecoming and out of place, especially on issues of such magnitude.

At the same time, the criticism by President Bush and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez of those who disagree with them are equally inappropriate and counterproductive and only serve to further divide the nation on this issue.

President Bush’s comment that those who disagree with the bill “don’t want to do what’s right for America” was intemperate and offensive. He presumptuously asserted that anyone who does not support the bill hasn’t read it. For those who may not read all 347 pages, let me address just three of the provisions I believe raise legitimate concerns.

He goes on to expose the problems of a 24-hour background check, the catch-22 of employers not allowed to use the verification database until after they have hired someone, and then not being able to fire that person until the person has appealed their status, and the issue of the bill treating those here illegally better than guest workers.  He concludes this way.

I cannot support legislation with such troubling provisions left intact. At a minimum, Z-visa applicants should go through a thorough background check before getting any visa regardless of how long it takes; employers should be allowed to determine the eligibility of job applicants before hiring or spending money to train them; Z-visa holders should not be offered a new path to citizenship or enhanced benefits not offered to guest workers.

As a native Arizonan, I strongly support legislation that would include border security, interior enforcement, employer enforcement, and a lawful mechanism for those seeking employment as guest workers. Regrettably, I do not believe this bill and the extreme rhetoric it is inciting are leading toward a solution.

“Intemperate and offensive” is pretty strong language coming from a Member of Congress of the same party as the Bush.  But, it probably reflects the feelings of many, many Republicans.

Congressman Shadegg has been a rarity in Congress – a member of the Revolutionary ’94 class that delivered the majority to Republicans – he hasn’t forgotten what conservative principle means.  He has a lifetime ranking of 98.1 with American Conservative Union (the highest in the delegation and the only thing preventing a 100 are his votes against a flag-burning amendment), a lifetime grade of A- with Numbers USA (also the highest in the delegation and significantly better than JD Hayworth’s C+ lifetime grade) and one of only three members of the House with a perfect 100 rating from Club for Growth.

When Shadegg was elected in 1994 to replace Kyl, who was elected to the Senate that year, most people said he would be another Kyl.  They were wrong.  He’s been much more conservative.

That said, Shadegg has never been viewed as a reactionary.  He is known as one of the most thoughtful and smartest members of the House, in some ways serving as the conscience of House Republicans as they have strayed from the principles of the Contract with America.  He has not been shy about criticizing House Leadership and other House Republicans for profligate spending, corrupting earmarks and a lack of ethics in the House.  And, Shadegg has not been shy about working against President Bush on big issues – having voted against to two major domestic policy issues of President Bush, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug bill.

Shadegg’s opposition fundamentally changes the game for the supporters of the Senate bill.  Everyone expected the likes of Reps. Tom Tancredo, Steve King, Duncan Hunter and Brian Bilbray to oppose anything that could make it out of the Senate.  But Shadegg’s role in the past with trying to find a middle ground (his Unity Dinners led to passage of a enforcement bill in the House which included more than 700 miles of fencing) and his support of a guest worker program make him an important bellweather in the House.  Shadegg is the recognized leader of conservatives in the House.  As the former Chairman of the Republican Study Committee – the conservative caucus now chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling – Shadegg was responsible for growing it from about 30 members to almost 100, and making conservatives a force to be reckoned with in the House.  With the Senate scheduled to continue debate and even vote on final passage this week, the criticisms of the bill raised by Shadegg sends a clear signal that thoughtful conservatives who Kyl may have been counting on for support aren’t with him.

An interesting thing to watch, according to Hill insiders, is the dynamic between Sen. Kennedy and Speaker Pelosi.  As one congressional staffer said recently, Kennedy is first and foremost a legislator – he likes to get things done.  Pelosi is a “new leftist” who has been following the lead of groups like MoveOn.org and DailyKos who hate Bush so much they want to deny him any kind of accomplishment.  The titanic struggle will be whether Kennedy wins and gets a bill passed out of the Senate and House (it’s widely believed that Bush will sign ANYTHING) or if Pelosi wins and never brings a bill to the House floor.

We are schizophrenic on immigration

The reason that immigration is the most difficult issue in a generation to solve is because the American people are schizophrenic about it.  On the one hand the vast majority of Americans cite illegal immigration as one of the most pressing problems in our nation.  At the same time, big majorities (between 65 and 75 percent depending on what survey you are reading) believe that we should provide those here illegally (who are working and crime free) with ability to stay here under some legal status.  And almost 60% believe that illegal aliens should be able to gain citizenship after those who are trying to do so legally have done so.

The New York Times and CBS News did a poll of 1,125 adults between May18-23.  Some interesting findings:

More than 70% believe illegal immigration weakens our economy by driving wages down. But more than 65 percent agree with a guest worker program with more than 50% believing that those guest workers should be able to become citizens (that is beyond what even the Senate immigration bill does).

57 percent think that recent immigrants have been a benefit to the country, but 35% said in the long term immigration would be bad for the country while only 28% said it would benefit us. (Presumably the rest had no opinion or thought there would be no change)

In the most dramatic example of our schizophrenic nature, a full 82% said that the federal government should do more to address illegal immigration but only 15% favored fences as the main control tool.

25% believe we should have a completely open border and 25% believe we should completely seal the border (the question I have is why there is a 10% difference between those who want to seal the border and those who think a fence is the main component to do so.)

I suppose it is only human nature that we are of two minds on this issue.  It is easy to rail against illegal immigration (as I do on a regular basis) when I think of it in terms of an ephemeral group of “them.”  However, when you put a human face to it, things begin to get more complicated.  I experienced this first-hand when I had a rare opportunity to accompany some border patrol agents on duty (I have a buddy who wears the green uniform) and they interdicted a group of illegals.  I have to admit, it was an adrenaline rush to be so close to the action and to see the agents work quickly to get the two dozen illegals corralled (they gave a feeble attempt to run, but figured they couldn’t outrun the SUV’s we were driving.  The agents lined them up and one-by-one searched them for weapons and asked various questions. 

I got a chance to ask some of the illegals questions through one of the agents who was fluent in Spanish.  There was a mother with a young girl.  They apparently did not have any connection to the rest of the people with whom they were wandering the desert south of Tucson.  According to what she told the agent, there was no husband and she could not find work to support her and her 9-year-old daughter.  I have to admit, the “tough guy” attitude I was displaying began to fade.  When the mother pulled her daughter’s backpack out of her own backpack, I was startled to immediately recognize it as the identical Strawberry Shortcake backpack that my 8 year-old daughter owns.  She then rifled through the pack looking for something, which she eventually found and handed to the agent.  He handed it to me explaining that it was the daughter’s most recent report card – she was a straight A student.  By that time I was darn near tears as I thought about what I was witnessing: a single mother with a straight-A student daughter was literally risking their lives to walk across the desert on the hope that she could find work.  As I looked at the little girl I visualized my own daughter, trying the fathom whether it was an incredible act of love that this mother would embark on such a dangerous journey or completely insane.  It struck me that love can be strong enough for us to do irrational things.  At that moment I concluded that if I was in her shoes, I’d probably do the same exact thing.  By this time I was such an emotional wreck that I walked away and sat in the truck, I couldn’t handle the impact this experience was having on me.

Since then I have drawn some conclusions. 

1 – Our border patrol agents are heroes.  To face that kind of circumstance day in and day out has to take a toll.  And yet they put the boots on every day and get out there protecting our border.

2 – We have a seriously broken system. 

3 – I don’t know the best way to solve it.  Clearly we can not tolerate the continued lawless flow of illegals.  At the same time, as Reagan said, we are the “shining city on a hill” and to get here legally takes literally decades.  I generally support a fence, and using advanced technology to supplement.  I also think that we are woefully short of manpower on the border.  And, I think we need some sort of guest worker program.  As to what to do about those here already?  I tend to the subscribe to the “attrition” theory that if we strengthen employer sanctions for those who employ illegals and make sure non-citizens are not getting welfare and other government benefits some of them will go back. 

4 – I thank God every day that I was blessed enough to be born in this great country, a place that offers so much opportunity that people risk their lives every day to get here.  Quite different than the experiences of people risking their lives to get OUT of a country – think Eastern Europe during the Soviet rule.

The bottom line is that something needs to change.  Unfortunately, as long as we as a nation remain schizophrenic on this issue, I don’t think we’ll solve it anytime soon.

In the meantime, I occasionally wonder what happened to that little girl, the straight-A student.  I replay it all over in my mind, watching her getting in the back of that border patrol truck and watching it drive away, headed to Nogales to drop her off on the other side of the border. 

Then I look at my daughter… and it makes me want to cry.