Republicans plan to use votes for the Senate immigration reform bill to campaign against vulnerable incumbent Democratic Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.).
Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidIf Gorsuch pick leads to 'crisis,' Dems should look in mirror first Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief Democrats declare victory after Puzder bows out MORE (Nev.) and Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump defends Flynn, blasts leaks | Yahoo fears further breach Overnight Finance: Trump's Labor pick withdraws | Ryan tries to save tax plan | Trump pushes tax reform with retailers Democrats declare victory after Puzder bows out 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.
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 SchumerOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump defends Flynn, blasts leaks | Yahoo fears further breach Overnight Finance: Trump's Labor pick withdraws | Ryan tries to save tax plan | Trump pushes tax reform with retailers Democrats declare victory after Puzder bows out MORE and Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWhite House adds to report on Trump's Sunday golf game British Parliament members hold heated debate over Trump visit What Trump can learn from Reagan on Presidents' Day 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 BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide 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 MurkowskiPublic lands dispute costs Utah a major trade show Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report More than 100 groups back Puzder for Labor secretary 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 BoozmanGOP considers ways to ‘modernize’ endangered species law GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget GOP senators to Trump: We support 'maintaining and expanding' Gitmo MORE (R-Ark.), David VitterDavid VitterMercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others Lobbying World Bottom Line MORE (R-La.) and Richard BurrRichard BurrJuan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away Report: Senate Intel Committee asks agencies to keep records related to Russian probe Comey meets Intel senators amid uproar over Trump-Russia ties 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 BennetSenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senators to Trump: We support additional Iran sanctions 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.