All In   |  June 20, 2013

Senate Republicans try to buy off their base

Chris Hayes discusses the Senate's Corker/Hoeven border security amendment with MSNBC's with Ezra Klein.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes . thank you for joining us. tonight on "all in", if you still possess the ability to be shocked by the corruption that crashed our economy, then you're going to be shocked by the report " rolling stone " has for us tonight. that's coming up. also a shocking turn of events on the house floor as the house speaker brings crucial legislation to the floor and watches it go down in flames. i'll tell you why what's bad for john boehner is good for the country.

>>> plus bailouts of struggling casinos? it is also something that is totally happening. we begin tonight with a truly rare bit of genuine progress from congress. excellent news that nonetheless has me seething with anger. here's what's happening that's great news and infuriating. making sure 11 million immigrants are given a road to citizenship is trying to pass a bill by a huge margin in the senate. they are called the gang of eight and the reason they think they need the huge margin victory is to put pressure on house speaker john boehner to bring the legislation to the house floor even though it it will almost certainly not have the support of a majority of house republicans. so that's the game plan. the goal is get 70 votes in the senate, a goal that has seemed, well, further away by the day lately. when one of the bills architects, marco rubio , i see you, started flirting with killing in. in order to stabilize and further build support from their side of the the aisle, bob corker struck a deal with the gang of eight, a deal that makes reform more possible. more likely to actually happen than it has in weeks. that's the progress. it's excellent news. and it's also infuriating because of how they are luring republicans into the fold. corker and hoeven have an amendment where they are calling for a border surge. it would require an additional 20,000 border agents on the u.s./ mexico border . 700 miles of fencing at the u.s. border , 350 miles more than we have now. and full implementation of electronic entry and exit system complete with u.s. customs and border protection officers. price tag? it's all for a cool $30 billion. or more.

>> so it's about $30 billion total?

>> correct. maybe slightly higher.

>> it will be more than that.

>> another bill or so. probably more than $30 billion. now when you were evaluating the american voter, the american taxpayer is thinking is this a smart way to spend money? i would like you to keep in mind these two important things. the migration policy institute , a nonpartisan think tank found in 2012 we spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies, a 43% increase from 2006 . here's the kicker. that $18 billion, that's more than we spent on all other law enforcement agencies combined by 24% and do you happen to know what the net migration between mexico and the united states currently is? it is zero. zero. the most recent numbers show that from 2005 to 2010 the net migration is zero. a huge change from 195 to 2000 it was more than 2 million people. but the number of people coming here from mexico was about the same as the number of people going to mexico from the u.s. so we're already spending almost $18 billion a year on a problem that does not exist. and republicans in the senate are poised to add $30 billion to that all over a handshake deal to win votes. and remember, these are the exact same people who say they care about spending and the deficit. let's take for example, republican bob corker , whose name is on the amendment. senator corker is nothing, if not a fiscal hog.

>> our country is on verge of being broke, and we have to do some courageous things to take us where we need to go. we have a spending problem in this country. i think everybody knows it. obviously spending is out of control. there's no question. i hope we'll quickly move to cutting spending.

>> people understand that spending is out of control in washington . they understand that.

>> young americans expect us to solve our fiscal issues so they aren't saddled with debt and robbed of their opportunity for the american dream .

>> if you listen to bob corker , you would think he's interested in lowering the debt. but when there was an estimate saying the immigration bill would save almost $200 billion over ten years, we heard from not one republican, bob corker or anyone else , who was rushing to switch their vote and support this money-saving legislation. no, instead senator corker struck a deal to spend over $30 billion more. and his supposedly deficit conscious colleagues came rushing to his side to switch their votes and. support the bill once $30 billion was added to the price tag. this is the party that won't stop talking about debt and deficit. this is the party that would have you believe their number one concern is we're spending our children into oblivion . quite the opposite. they are being persuaded to support reform now that republicans have tacked on tens of billions of dollars in additional spending to the bill. and this is the way to understand everything that's happening with republicans and immigration . this is the deal. this amendment. it isn't about stopping people at the border . it's not about policy and it's not about the deficit. it's about paying a price to appease the deep fears of the republican base. fears that were so eloquently described yesterday on the lawn of the capitol.

>> there are people who are coming here who want to come to cut your lawn and have a better life . but there are people who want to cut your throat.

>> the cost of keeping people like that quiet is $30 billion. courtesy of the u.s. taxpayer. joining me is ezra klein . we have had this discussion about how everything about the immigration debate isn't about what people say it is. i want to start on the border fence and talk about poverty. i want to play this bit of senator corker admitting that the bill he proposed is overkill overkill. take a listen.

>> for people who are concerned about border security , once they see what is in this bill, it's almost overkill.

>> who advertises the policy in washington that they are supporting as overkill, as doing more as spending too much money? that's the opposite of what we're supposed to get out of the cash-strapped sequester-ridden government at the moment.

>> this is exactly the key. so many of the republican party establish me establishment in washington are looking at their base and this is one of those issues where they turn and say, oh my god, i can't believe we're connected to these people. folks like corker and a lot of these other things are trying to figure out how to not kill them. so an amendment like this one, it's not about getting the border safer. it's about finding something they can do that will make it seem like they have done enough to calm this primal fear . but they won't have done something that destroys a bill for a path to citizenship. you're seeing a huge gap, an enormous koz m between republican voters and they are shoveling money.

>> that's exactly --

>> until it fills up and they can walk across it it.

>> it is the definition of throwing money at a problem. what the money is, it isn't real money in many ways. but the money is a symbol that we hear you and we care as much about security and your fears of this infiltration and invasion as much as you do.

>> the money is tangible. this is the key to the corker amendment. the two things that are kind of on the table, cornyn, which was the conservative amendment, was trying to set very, very high benchmarks for how much operational control and situational awareness you have of the border . so he was saying things like we need to apprehend 90% of anybody who comes across it. we have to have 100% situational awareness meaning we know everything that's going on along the border . these are impossible things to do. what corker and hoeven are doing is buying things, they are buying border patrol agents and the reason that is helpful is on the one hand it's achievable. democrats don't mind. somebody was saying to me the other day, look, we don't think it's the most effective program you can do, but it is a public works program.

>> it's also so funny because you and i had this conversation. once spending gets tagged as security or defense, it's not like not real spending.

>> it's on a different budget.

>> it's in a different conceptual space. on the sunday shows, they won't be talking about what's this going to do for the deficit. i want to talk about jeff sessions . you called out jeff sessions in a great way. senator from alabama is not going to vote for the bill no matter what gets put in it. he's been giving explanations for why he can't vote for it. thun one that it would be bad for people at the bo of the wage scale. explain to me why we should maybe not trust jeff sessions on this particular issue. take a listen.

>> how in the world can we justify passing a bill that hammers the american working man and woman who is out trying to feed a family, get a job, that has little retirement, a little health care , some money to be able to take care of the family and to hammer them with additional adverse economic impacts?

>> this is in some ways the left version of the argument for immigration restriction. you let in too many immigrants, it's going to push wages down to the bottom of the wage skiel skail. you took issue with jeff sessions making this argument. why?

>> what set me off about sessions, something else happened. we had this congressional report and it said immigration will grow the economy. over time immigration will raise wages. immigration will make a lot of people better off. what sessions says and anti- immigration economists will say is well, there are some losers. there are some very, very low-educated, high school or less, mostly men who are going to face some wage competition. and even if the spie is bigger, they are worse off. maybe it it grows the economy and does these other things, but it it does so by giving money to businesses and to rich people and not to the low-skills workers who we need to help. and number one, when you get $200 billion from this bill, if you want to just hand that over to folks with high school educations and give it to them to get college educations, you would do an enormous amount of good for them. but sessions isn't proposing that. but more to the point, what sessions is doing here, everything else republicans do, and this is a fear. you can have this theory. moving money over to businesses and rich people and saying they will use that money to grow the size of the pie. they will hire people and we'll have this much better economy and all the gains will be shared because the american economy is a working engine of distribution if you're just not screwing with the people who know what they are doing. here he comes on this one issue of immigration reform , any policy that does not share its gains sufficiently with folks at the bottom is not a policy worth having. you think what about the bush tax cuts ? what about when you voted against things like obama care and the american jobs act? there are a lot of policies in the american government that don't fit jeff sessions new litmus test but only uses it it when it comes to immigration reform .

>> and the reason, and i think the thing that unites corker and sessions, is what is driving opposition to comprehensive immigration reform is an ethnic anxiety about diffusion, about losing the kind of america people had. we have progressed politically where you can't champion that as the reason to be against it. what has to happen is republican members of congress have to reverse engineer reasons to oppose it, but they are representing the cultural anxieties of their base.

>> this was the danger of the report. what it did was it took the bloodless language of the budget away from them. they can't say it will increase the deficit or hurt the economy. now they are coming into weird corners. maybe it will hurt average wakes wages. they don't want to use the gains of immigration to help workers because they are not worried about workers. that's not why they are against this. they are worried about the immigrants. who are also low-wage workers who it wouldn't be such a bad thing to help.

>> ezra klein , thank you so much.

>> thank you.