Plucking the pluckers.

Plucking the pluckers.

Plucking the pluckers.

A mostly political Weblog.
June 18 2007 8:14 AM

Plucking the Pluckers

Do liberals still care about low-wage workers?

(Continued from Page 15)

More Killer Amendment  Strategy: Hit Employers Hard!Kf's quondam correspondent, the mysterious Mr. X (as I think I've called him) surfaces with some suggestions that echo the conclusion of the Killer Amendment Contest--namely that the most lethal immigration-bill amendments will separate the GOP's business conservatives from its social conservatives by targeting employers in a way that also appeals to Democrats:

[I]nstead of working the margins with burdens on employers of Z-visas immigrants, how about hard-nosed provisions that shift the burden of proof about employment eligibility from immigrants to employers... [snip] ... [H]ow about upping the fine for employing illegals to $100,000 per instance, making it illegal to employ anyone who hasn't been confirmed (instead of the current proposed system of making illegal to fire anyone until their appeals process is up) ... or even, my favorite, a fine that's enforceable on the spot if illegal immigrants are found on a work-site. (Let the employers appeal the fine after they've paid.)

It's not just a poison pill, but I think it's also good policy. ...

If you make it illegal to employ anyone until and only after they've confirmed their employment eligibility, even employers who don't presently have business models dependent on low-wage illegal immigrants (agribusiness, food service, hospitality,  etc.) would absolutely freak out because employees wouldn't be able to work while they're appealing mistakes in the system.

But why these make for great killer amendments is because [they] would unite the enforcement-first Republicans with the old-line Labor Dems together on one side against big-business GOP and open-border Dems.  That's the fault line of this debate to exploit.

Hit employers hard. Very hard.


At the very least, tough anti-employer amendments would give labor Dems who'd like to kill the bill--but who might not want to leave many fingerprints--a way to accomplish their goal: they merely vote to make the evil, illegal-hiring employers bear their fair responsibility. It just so happens that this breaks apart the bill's core coalition. ... 2:45 A.M. link

Hey, President Bush, here's your domestic legacy! No need for that messy, divisive immigration reform business. ... P.S.:Eduwonk is only mildly impressed. He's probably right. Ignore him! Take a victory lap! ... 1:00 A.M.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Killer A's: I'm intuitively pessimistic about the chances of blocking the Senate "p.o.s."--I mean, "grand bargain"--immigration bill with so-called Killer Amendments. But maybe I just don't understand how K.A.'s work. This especially helpful email from reader M.G. on "poison pills" suggests that it's not completely hopeless:

A poison pill is an amendment that the ideological minority uses to defeat a bill that has majority support. They do this by creating an amendment that has the following conditions:

1) The vast majority of the ideological majority will reject the whole bill if it includes the amendment.

2) A large enough minority of the ideological majority will embrace the amendment, such that when combined with the minority, they form a new majority to pass the amendment.

3) The vast majority of the ideological minority favors the amendment either outright, or because they know it will kill the larger bill.

An example: the recent move toward D.C. voting representation in the House. The Democratic party supported it more or less down the line. The GOP opposed it. So the GOP introduced an amendment to loosen hand gun restrictions in DC. This resulted in the following:

1) The vast majority of Democrats would oppose the overall bill if the amendment passed.

2) The amendment would pass, because enough (a dozen?) democrats would be in favor of the hand gun loosening.

3) All of the GOP would vote for the amendment, either because they believed in it, or because they wanted to kill the overall bill.

The bill died, not because it was voted down, but because the Democratic leadership pulled it from the floor when they saw that the amendment would pass. THAT'S the key: when the leadership sees that a killer amendment is going to turn the majority of the majority against a bill, they won't allow the amendment to happen.  Instead, they'll kill the bill. In essence, it requires the majority of the majority to have the following preferences:

1) overall bill passes
2) no bill passes
3) overall bill passes with killer amendment

The problem with this "poison the majority" approach, as applied to the immigration bill, is that once the bill gets through the Senate, it will go to the Democratic House and a conference expected to be dominated by Dems--meaning that any changes the Democrats don't like can be taken out. The upshot is that it will be next to impossible to include an amendment that will make lots of Democrats vote against the overall bill now--to value option 2 over option 3 in the above example. They'll just figure any pill that's poisonous to them will disappear in conference.

A successful "killer amendment" would probably have to be one that makes the bill unpalatable to its Republican supporters, who are a minority of the majority. It would peel enough of them away from the bill on a cloture vote to leave it with fewer than 60 supporters. There would seem to be at least two kinds of such amendments.

1. Majority Overreach: In this scenario, the Democrats flex their muscles and amend the bill to their liking in a way that loses them their Republican coalition partners. An example would be the current attempt to retain lots of family reunification visas and dilute or delay the shift to a skills-based system favored by Republicans a) The problem with this approach is the Dems know this and won't want to overreach. b) The ray of light is that some may find it impossible to explain to their constituencies why they voted against family reunification. They may prefer "no bill"--and an issue to run on--to having to make that explanation. (That might be why the pro-family-reunification amendments seem to be giving the bill's sponsors some trouble, despite factor (a)); c) The cloud obscuring the ray of light is that many GOP Senators seem quite willing to sell out even on family unification as long as they can appear to have obtained a compensating concession--e.g. sticking in a phony "touchback" provision that requires illegals to symbolically return to their home countries or even a foreign embassy before taking various steps on the road to citizenship.

An effective Killer Amendment of this sort would maximize possibility b and minimize possibility c. Perhaps the anti-bill conservatives could render the "touchback" sellout less plausible by teaming with liberals to make the requirements even more of a joke than they are now--which brings us to ...