GOP prepares to pummel red-state Dems on immigration reform votes

Republicans plan to use votes for the Senate immigration reform bill to campaign against vulnerable incumbent Democratic Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood Ex-Sen. Landrieu joins law and lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mary LandrieuMary Landrieu oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Republican announces bid for Vitter’s seat MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay Hagan10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' Washington's lobby firms riding high MORE (N.C.).

Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid 'fairly certain' Democrats will win Senate Satanists balk at Cruz comparison Cory Booker is Clinton secret weapon MORE (Nev.) and Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCruz's dad: Trump 'would be worse than Hillary Clinton' With Ryan’s blessing, lawmakers press ahead with tax reform talks Big business will never appease the Left MORE (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, will achieve a big legislative victory this week by keeping the Democratic caucus unified in support of the bill. 

ADVERTISEMENT
But they could pay a political price next year.

State Republican Party leaders say Democrats who support the bill will see television attack ads on the issue in 2014.

“It’s just another sign that even vulnerable Democrats like Landrieu, Begich, Hagan and Pryor are more loyal to Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerCruz's dad: Trump 'would be worse than Hillary Clinton' With Ryan’s blessing, lawmakers press ahead with tax reform talks Big business will never appease the Left MORE and Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWatch Obama's full correspondents' dinner speech Five ways Trump will attack Clinton Armstrong Williams: Obama 'should get on his knees and pray' MORE than they are to middle-class men and women struggling in their home states,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Dayspring clarified his comment Thursday after a pro-immigration GOP strategist anonymously criticized him in an interview with ABC. Dayspring said his quote was used “a bit out of context” and explained that while the NRSC doesn't plan a major focus on the issue or to engage in a national effort around the legislation, it believes immigration reform could hurt several Democratic Senators at home.

Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Dem ex-lawmakers defend Schumer on Iran MORE (Alaska) is another Democrat running for reelection in a conservative-leaning state. He’s in a better position than some of his colleagues because Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiThe Hill's 12:30 Report Bishop eyes new Puerto Rico bill after recess Week ahead: Senate looks to wrap up energy, water spending bill MORE (R-Alaska) will also vote for the legislation.

Pryor, Landrieu and Hagan will get no such support from their Republican home-state colleagues. Sens. John BoozmanJohn BoozmanBringing US rice back to Cuba Senate passes energy reform bill Capitol Hill’s forest champions helped secure win for wood MORE (R-Ark.), David VitterDavid VitterSenators aim to bolster active shooter training 5 takeaways from Mike Lee’s leadership bid Republicans demand shift in Obama’s ISIS strategy MORE (R-La.) and Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: The establishment comes around Intel leaders push controversial encryption draft Moulitsas: 2016 dim for GOP MORE (R-N.C.) will vote against final passage of the legislation.

Republican strategists say their party needs to improve its performance among Hispanic voters, the fastest growing major electoral bloc, to remain competitive in future elections. 

But they view Hispanic voters as more important in the 2016 presidential election than the 2014 midterm elections, which will have lower turnout.

In 2012, Hispanic voters made up 2 percent of Arkansas’s electorate, 3 percent of Louisiana’s electorate, and 4 percent of North Carolina’s voters, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

GOP strategists expect immigration reform to be a liability for Democratic senators in those states because of growing attention on the debate in Congress.

Jason Doré, the executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana, said he expects Landrieu’s race to include ads on immigration next year.

He said immigration reform could even eclipse her votes for the 2010 Affordable Care Act and expanded background checks for gun sales.

“Immigration reform is one of these issues that is percolating and growing in voters’ consciousness. It could end up being more powerful than these other things,” Doré said.

Landrieu attracted attention earlier this month by calling the southern border fence “dumb.” 

Democrats argue that Republicans have overestimated the potency of the issue.

Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetGOP Senate candidate wins right to be on Colorado ballot EPA ozone rule looms large in swing state 2 Colorado Senate candidates fail to qualify for ballot MORE (Colo.), a member of the Gang of Eight and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the bill will help Democrats in agricultural states.

“In the rural parts of Colorado — I can speak for that — there’s widespread support for this bill,” he said, adding “it’s the same” for Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina.

“You have people whose businesses rely on our fixing this problem, and they’re going to be people who voted to help fix it and that’s good,” he said.

Justin Barasky, spokesman for the DSCC, accused Republicans of insincerity in the immigration reform debate.

“Republicans said they were committed to learning from their mistakes and fostering bipartisan compromise on comprehensive immigration reform. Guess they were lying,” he said.  

Republicans say they do want to fix what they view as a broken immigration system but argue the Senate bill will not guarantee border security before putting millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

“Sen. Boozman is standing up for the approach that we have to deal with the problem of border security. Once we get a handle on that issue, we’re going to address the issue of legalization or the path to citizenship,” said David Ray, communications director of the Republican Party of Arkansas.

He said Republicans will criticize Pryor over his vote for the pending immigration reform bill, as well as past votes on the issue.

Ray noted that in 2006 Pryor voted against an amendment that to bar immigrants from claiming Social Security credits for work done while they were in the country illegally. The Senate voted this week to include that prohibition in the current bill.

Republicans say they will use Pryor’s vote to argue that he is a “rubber stamp” for the Democratic leadership.

“This is not the first time that we’ve seen Sen. Pryor’s tendency to side with the wish

es of Senate leadership and the administration over the wishes of voters in Arkansas,” he said.

To back up his argument, he pointed to a Christian Science Monitor article from May 2006 that reported Pryor voted against the Social Security amendment after an unnamed Democratic aide urged: “Hurry! We need your vote!”

North Carolina Republicans intend to wield similar arguments against Hagan because of her support for the Senate bill.

“Kay Hagan’s latest vote helps push an irresponsible agenda that threatens families and workers across the Tar Heel State,” said Mike Rusher, chief of staff of the North Carolina Republican Party. 

Conservatives have already targeted Begich for a special provision he won in the bill to ensure seasonal labor for Alaska’s seafood processing industry. Critics call it the “Crabhusker kickback.”

“I am determined to make sure Alaska seafood industry employers have the reliable pool of seasonal help they need to maintain adequate processing capacity,” Begich said Monday. 

Updated on Thursday, June 27 at 3:20 p.m.