After American Bridge busted Republicans speaking out of both sides of their mouths on immigration reform last night, the Washington press corps is taking note of one of the most cynical political ploys you’ll ever see.
And remember– this is just days before 2016 hopefuls fly to Iowa to kiss Steve King’s ring. King, for his part, didn’t mix messages last night, sticking to calling one of the president’s guests “a deportable.”
Republican leadership tapped freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida to give the Spanish-language response to the State of the Union while freshman Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa was delivering the official response. Yet the two speeches, while similar in structure, had one large difference: immigration.
Curbelo mentioned it in his speech. Ernst did not.
“We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system,” Curbelo said, according to a translation of the video posted by American Bridge. “In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these, now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done.”
Republicans sent mixed signals on immigration in their two official rebuttals to President Obama Tuesday night: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s rebuttal made no mention of the topic, but the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, delivered by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama to fix the immigration system.
Ernst avoided bringing up the topic of immigration, even though her party has blasted Obama for providing deportation relief to undocumented immigrants.
Curbelo went in a different direction.
The liberal political action committee American Bridge quickly circulated a video calling out Republicans for the disparity in their message.
Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo was also chosen by the party to deliver a Spanish-language address that touched on similar themes. As Democratic opposition researcher American Bridge noted, however, his address included a call for “permanent solutions for our immigration system” while Ernst did not address the topic.
But when the speeches were delivered in the evening, there was at least one major difference — one key to many Spanish-language audiences. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), delivering the official Republican rebuttal, did not utter the word “immigration” once. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) not only mentioned the issue, but said Republicans want to work on it with President Barack Obama.
“We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, modernize legal immigration and strengthen our economy. In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these, now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done,” Curbelo said in the address, translated by liberal group American Bridge (and checked by The Huffington Post).
That difference especially once again highlighted the divide that exists among Republicans on the topic of immigration reform. Curbelo, for example, campaigned on a promise to tackle immigration reform. He recently joined with about a half dozen House Republicans who voted against all or part of a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security that would strip away immigration policy changes made by Obama.
Ernst hails from Iowa, a state whose Republican politics are dominated by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a vocal opponent of immigration reform. When immigration came up during her campaign, it was usually in the context of criticizing Obama for using executive powers to change immigration policy.
In an interview Tuesday night, Curbelo said that when he submitted his draft to GOP leaders, “I got no pushback.”
While Ernst’s speech included comments about abortion politics, Curbelo instead touted the need for immigration reform. “We should work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions to our immigration system, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,” he said, according to a translation by the Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge. From there, Curbelo went directly back into language also found in Ernst’s speech, saying: “In the past, the President has expressed support for ideas like these; now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done.”
Similarly, Curbelo briefly touched on education reform and Cuba—two topics Ernst didn’t broach.
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst delivered the Republican response and never once mentioned “immigration” or “border.” She didn’t talk about passing a comprehensive immigration plan through Congress, as the president has called for. Or about the GOP plans to try to reverse the executive orders Obama signed in November that gave legal status to 5 million undocumented immigrants.
But in a Spanish-language response speech, which the GOP had indicated was going to echo Ernst’s address, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, of Florida, did talk about immigration, as the liberal American Bridge super PAC was quick to point out.
“We should also work together through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, modernize legal immigration and strengthen our economy,” Curbelo said in Spanish. “In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these, now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done.”