Dems quickly change the subject on the Hill from guns to immigration
After their stinging defeat on gun control, Hill Democrats are quickly changing the subject from guns to immigration reform.
But are they jumping from the fire into the frying pan?
Democrats in Congress have quickly changed the subject from gun control to immigration reform and are relieved to be moving past an issue that divided them to more solid political ground.
The political momentum from the resounding victories of Election Day stalled earlier in the week when Republicans punched out all three pillars of Obama's gun-control agenda.Democrats are counting on immigration reform to get their groove back.
"I think Democrats are kind of licking their wounds after losing on the gun debate and will probably be pushing real hard to win on immigration," said David Di Martino, a Democratic strategist.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) grumbled that Democratic leaders are so eager to move on to immigration reform they barely gave Republicans a chance to read the bill.
"The majority is rushing us to read and analyze the bill. It's just under 900 pages and it tackles some very important issues," he said. "Most members and staff on this committee have not read the bill in its entirety before this hearing."
Until the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Democrats never envisioned gun-control would be the first major issue out of the gate this year. The subject barely came up on the campaign trail in 2012.
While the White House officials and Democratic leaders claimed the politics of gun control had changed, vulnerable incumbents saw it as a dangerous issue in rural states.
Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska), one of the Democrats facing a difficult re-election, said expanded background checks would have undermined Alaska values and fundamental rights.
Immigration reform is a much stronger issue for them as Hispanic voters make up the fastest-growing major electoral bloc.
"From a tactical political perspective it's much better ground for Democrats," said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist.
Certainly with most of their core constituencies, immigration reform is a winner for Democrats. But any momentum the bill might have had has been interrupted by the revelations surrounding the Boston attacks and the debate over the question of whether the terrorists should have been let into the country in the first place is just beginning.
The Boston attacks have thrown an unknown ingredient into the immigration reform pot, and no one at this point is willing to say what effect it will have on the outcome. It may play out much as the gun control debate did, with red state Democrats being given pause by questions about current immigration law and its enforcement.