Remember when GOP Senator Roy Blunt came out for cutting Social Security benefits via chained CPI – the stingy man’s way to calculate cost of living increases for retirees? Blunt was firm that the “government must control entitlements,” meaning by entitlements programs for the elderly like Social Security and Medicare that he claimed would ultimately bust the budget. Like the reliable GOP footsoldier that he is, he’s made no bones about his deficit hawkery, stating that he sees “little room for compromise when it comes to reducing the deficit.”
I’m here to tell you that Blunt has changed his tune. He doesn’t care about budget-busting spending anymore. He’s let it be known that he’ll only support immigration reform legislation if it also contains something on the order of the amendment that he co-sponsored with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), which would require “a 100 percent capability of monitoring along the border with Mexico and a 90 percent apprehension rate of people entering illegally.” Bear in mind that under increased border security already enacted by the Obama administration, illegal entry from Mexico is at near historic lows. Of course, the increased security would carry a great big price tag – and there’s good reason to believe that lots of the funds would be dollars down a rathole.
While the Cornyn amendment that Blunt was touting was voted down, a similar if somewhat less stringent compromise amendment was incorporated into the underlying immigration bill today. The Corker-Hoeven amendment calls for doubling the current number of border patrol agents and would line 700 miles of border with a $30 billion fence. No green cards will be issued until the mandated border security enhancements are in place – which constitutes a type “trigger” mechanism to control immigration, which Blunt has specified as essential. The one-time cost of the fence and and the on-going costs for the new border control agents would, of course, be tremendous.
It will be interesting to see how Roy Blunt jumps now that the Corker-Hoeven compromise is the name of the game. Will the man who wanted to cut entitlements for old folks be willing to incur massive costs to deal with what is already a steadily diminishing border security problem? Of course the Congressional Budget Office reported on Tuesday that passing the immigration bill would reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion. But if the deficit problem is as serious as folks in Blunt’s GOP claim it is, shouldn’t that sum be devoted to paying it down rather than “militarizing” our southern border? Is the GOP really that afraid of brown people?
Of course, if Blunt decides that he can support the immigration bill with the Corker-Hoeven provisions, he could argue that the 20,000 border patrol jobs could be viewed as a great little burst of stimulus spending – remember how when he ran for the Senate he jabbered on and on about job creation. However, I also remember that he’s a supply-side type of guy who finds the idea of demand-based, stimulus spending anathema. He voted against the original stimulus bill, the American Recovery Reinvestment Act; he called it an “absolute outrage.”
The Senate will vote on the immigration bill on Monday. Whether Blunt decides he can support the massive spending incorporated via the Corker-Hoeven amendment – in order, ironically, to secure more of those GOP deficit hawks’ votes – I’m sure that we’ll be treated to his usual graceless display of moral “flexibility” when it comes time to explain the rationale behind his vote. I can almost guarantee it.