Tales from the Trail

Republicans target birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants’ children

Fresh from a bitter row over Arizona’s tough crackdown on illegal immigrants, top Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are pushing to review a constitutional amendment that grants automatic birthright citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

USA-IMMIGRATION/ARIZONAIn the past week several Republicans have called for or supported hearings on Capitol Hill reviewing the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was enacted in 1868 following the Civil War and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” 

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and erstwhile supporter of comprehensive immigration reform granting a path to legal status for the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants living stateside, kicked off the row with an interview on the Fox network a week ago in which he said automatic citizenship attracted illegal immigrants, and that a review was needed.

“People come here to have babies. They come here to drop a child, it’s called drop and leave,” Graham said. “To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, they have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen. That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people for all the wrong reasons,” he added.

Graham said he was considering introducing a constitutional amendment to change the rules on automatic citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. A study last year by the Pew Hispanic Center estimated at 4 million the number of U.S. citizen children of families where at least one parent was an illegal immigrant.
   
Challenging birthright citizenship has until now been an issue pushed by conservatives on the right of the Republican party. That stand has also gained backing in the past week of Senators Jon Kyl, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, and Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Administrative Oversight and the Courts Subcommittee. OBAMA/
   
The latest drive by Republicans follows hot on the heels of Arizona’s tough immigration law — a measure crafted by Republican state lawmakers that sought to drive illegal immigrants out of the Mexico border state, but was blocked by a federal judge last week, arguing that immigration matters are the federal government’s responsibility.
   
Tensions over that law have inflamed a decades-old national debate over immigration, which promises to play into the elections in November, when President Barack Obama’s Democrats are fighting to retain control of Congress.
   
While taking a tough stance on illegal immigrants may play well with the Republican’s conservative base, it runs the risk of alienating U.S. Hispanics, an increasingly weighty voter bloc that turned out for Obama in 2008 by a two-to-one margin.
   
Senator John McCain, who ran for president against Obama and faces a tough primary battle this month in Arizona for his party’s nomination to run for the Senate, also lent his support to the process of reviewing citizenship rights, although he sounded a note of caution about changing the Constitution.
   
“Our Founding Fathers intentionally made the process of amending our Constitution extremely difficult. I believe that the Constitution is a strong, complete and carefully crafted document that has successfully governed our nation for centuries and any proposal to amend the Constitution should receive extensive and thoughtful consideration,” he said in a statement released by his office.

McCain, J.D. Hayworth both claim Tea Party backing

Both Arizona Republican primary challenger J.D. Hayworth and moderate incumbent John McCain claimed the support of Tea Party activists on Monday in their knock-down, drag-out fight for to be their party’s pick to run for the U.S. Senate in the state.
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Hayworth, a former U.S. Congressman who has campaigned as the “Consistent Conservative,” claimed the backing of a statewide coalition of Tea Party activists and “like minded” conservatives in his flagging challenge to unseat four-term incumbent McCain in the August 24 primary.

Hayworth, a talk show host, has lambasted centrist McCain as a liberal on immigration and fiscal issues. On Monday, he trumpeted the support of 16 Tea Party organizations from across the state, posting testimonials on his campaign website.

“We, as conservative leaders and individuals in Arizona, representing thousands of members …  are looking forward to supporting Mr. Hayworth’s campaign in the general election,” Annette McHugh, the leader of the Tea Party Patriots of Glendale, said in an endorsement.

Man of Steele seems to have avoided kryptonite for now

After a weekend of some prominent Republicans calling for his resignation — Liz Cheney among them — and a round of phone calls trying to explain himself, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appears likely to hold onto his job through the election. USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANS

Washington Whispers has a look at how Steele’s gaffe on Afghanistan does not affect Republican fundraising, which is obviously key to the November elections when Republicans are hoping to gain seats and possibly control of Congress from President Barack Obama’s Democrats.

After the election will be quite another story for the RNC chairman, with Republicans probably looking to replace Steele. Hotline has a piece on possible candidates in the next go-around. (Sarah Palin is not considered to be a serious contender).

Senate Republicans keeping powder dry on START treaty

There appears to be no rush among Senate Republicans to finish what President Barack Obama STARTed when he signed the new arms reduction treaty recently with Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev.

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/At a closed-door meeting Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans listened to arms experts and leaders in their caucus discuss the deal, a follow-on to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

But the general feeling in the room was that it was way too early to decide whether the new START merited a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from the Senate, some participants said.

House Democrat wants GOP apology for threats and violence

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House Democrat Barney Frank says Republican leaders should apologize for threats and vandalism against Democrats who’ve had the temerity to back President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda.

Why? The Massachusetts Democrat says Republicans have actually been cheering on the bad behavior. And, he adds, recent Republican condemnations have not gone far enough.

“I’m glad that my Republican leadership colleagues now have decided to denounce it. But they’ve been very late to do that. Over the weekend, they were much more egging on this kind of behavior than denouncing it,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.  ”I think there ought to be some apologies.”

Is McCain taking his toys and going home?

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Is Republican Senator John McCain bringing playground  logic to Washington’s bitter partisan divide?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs seems to think so.

McCain, defeated by President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, vowed that Republicans furious after passage of Obama’s historic healthcare overhaul, will not work with Obama’s Democrats this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain told an Arizona radio program, criticizing the way Democrats steered the healthcare bill through Congress. “They have poisoned the well in what they have done and how they have done it.”

Karl Rove says families should be off limits in politics

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Karl Rove thinks the families of public figures should be off limits from the nasty, maligning, ad hominem attacks of election politics.

On an NBC Today show appearance to promote his new book, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight”, Rove was asked about reports that his adoptive father, Louis, was gay.

Some critics have gone so far as to speculate that a gay father might help explain his parents’ divorce, his mother’s suicide and even his opposition to gay marriage. But Rove wants to “set the record straight” in the book, which is due for release on Tuesday.

McCain says he was misled, but not everyone agrees

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John McCain says he was misled by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson into supporting the Wall Street bailout.

“We were all misled,” the Arizona Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend.

Misled in what way?

With the economy showing every sign of burning to the ground, McCain says Paulson told Congress the Bush administration wanted to buy up toxic mortgages blamed for the conflagration. But he turned around and gave the money directly to Wall Street.

Republicans declare Healthcare Summit victory

USA-HEALTHCARE/A day after President Barack Obama’s nationally televised healthcare summit, Republicans are out declaring victory.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn said the summit was good for the American public. Good, that is, for the public to hear the Republican argument and see Obama lose his usual cool, particularly during the highly publicized exchange with his former presidential election adversary, Sen. John McCain.

“It was good for the American people see him kind of become a bit agitated,” the Tennessee Republican told MSNBC.  “There were a couple of times that maybe he did get a little bit frustrated, and that’s good for the American people to see.”

Republican “blank page” challenges Obama

OBAMA/The next U.S. presidential election is more than 2-1/2 years away. But pollsters are already asking how President Barack Obama would stack up against a Republican challenger.

The results are favorable. But for whom? No one can say.

Obama is in a statistical dead heat against an unnamed Republican candidate, leading the challenger 44 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll with a 4-percentage-point margin of error. Gallup surveyed 1,025 adults Feb. 1-3.

Media pundits are divided about what the findings mean, or don’t mean.

Some say the data are meaningless except as a gauge of 2010 voter anger toward Washington and incumbents generally.