Subject After Gun Bill Collapse
Democrats in Congress have quickly changed the subject from gun control to immigration reform and are relieved to be moving past an issue that divided them to more solid political ground.
The political momentum from the resounding victories of Election Day stalled earlier in the week when Republicans punched out all three pillars of Obama's gun-control agenda.
Democrats are counting on immigration reform to get their groove back.
"I think Democrats are kind of licking their wounds after losing on the gun debate and will probably be pushing real hard to win on immigration," said David Di Martino, a Democrat strategist.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) grumbled that Democrat leaders are so eager to move on to immigration reform they barely gave Republicans a chance to read the bill.
"The majority is rushing us to read and analyze the bill. It's just under 900 pages and it tackles some very important issues," he said. "Most members and staff on this committee have not read the bill in its entirety before this hearing."
Until the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Democrats never envisioned gun-control would be the first major issue out of the gate this year. The subject barely came up on the campaign trail in 2012.
While the White House officials and Democrat leaders claimed the politics of gun control had changed, vulnerable incumbents saw it as a dangerous issue in rural states.
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), one of the Democrats facing a difficult re-election, said expanded background checks would have undermined Alaska values and fundamental rights.
Immigration reform is a much stronger issue for them as Hispanic voters make up the fastest-growing major electoral bloc.
"From a tactical political perspective it's much better ground for Democrats," said Tad Devine, a Democrat strategist.
Now the political danger looms over Republicans, who could risk a backlash from conservatives by embracing a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants or alienate Hispanic voters by blocking it.
Sen. John McCain (Ri-AZ), who negotiated with Democrats to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill, warned his fellow Republicans of the stakes.
"Republicans have got to compete for the Hispanic voter," he said. "It puts us on a level where we can compete in the battle of ideas. Right now we're not competitive because this issue has got to be resolved in the minds of our citizens who feel this is a vitally important issue."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the gun-control package off the Senate floor with little prior notice while much of the Capitol press corps was attending a rollout of the immigration reform bill hosted by Reid's top deputies.
Democrat leaders vowed Wednesday the battle over expanding background checks for gun sales had only just begun, but by Friday it was already a distant memory.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 04/21/2013
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