The question: Is an assault weapon ban or citizenship for undocumented immigrants more likely to get through Congress?
My answer: There's a lot going on in Washington besides budget battles. Tuesday President Obama will send his immigration reform proposal to Congress. Presumably the president's bill will include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Last week Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposed a law that will ban the manufacture, sale and ownership of assault weapons.
I think it will be easier for Congress to give undocumented immigrants citizenship than it will be to take away assault weapons. Why do I feel that way? Let me count the ways.
There is political pressure on both sides of the aisle to reform the immigration system. The president owes a debt of gratitude to Latino voters who voted overwhelmingly to re-elect him. Not only did Latinos strongly support President Obama but they made up a larger share of the electorate than they did in 2008. Latinos along with Asians are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. and the GOP is panicked because they know Hispanics will be an even larger share of the electorate on 2016.
Potential Republican presidential candidates know they ignore Latino voters at their own peril. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American U.S. Senator from Florida has warned Republicans that things will get worse for the GOP if the party doesn't embrace reform. In an op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal last week, another presidential aspirant Jeb Bush called for "comprehensive immigration reform." The Los Angeles Times reported last week that traditional GOP supporters like police chiefs, businesspeople and even evangelical ministers want the party to do something to solve the problem.
The best thing that immigration reform has going for it is there is no organization that opposes immigration reform comparable to the National Rifle Association. With its visibility and money, the NRA still has a death grip on Congress.
A few days after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., a strong NRA supporter, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said he was open to a ban on assault weapons. My guess is that Sen. Manchin got a quick call from someone at the NRA since he walked back his comments soon after. I don't know of any anti-immigration group that inspires the same shock and awe.
Sen. Feinstein understated the problem last week when she said that there was a "really uphill road" ahead for her proposal. The path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will be much easier to travel.
Brad Bannon is president of Bannon Communications Research, a Washington D.C.-based political polling and consulting firm that helps Democratic candidates, labor unions and progressive issue groups win political and public affairs campaigns. Campaigns and Elections magazine named Brad a "mover and shaker" in the political consulting industry. He is also one of the "Democratic Insiders" in the biweekly National Journal pundit poll.
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