Congratulations, America: Congress Has Finally Outsourced Itself

Rather than work to tailor a guest-worker program that would please the major constituencies on each side, the Senate just handed the negotiation over to those groups.
bordersenators.banner.AP.jpg.jpg
Senators Jeff Flake, Chuck Schumer, John McCain, and Michael Bennet on a visit to the Mexican border near Nogales, Arizona. (Associated Press)

The prospects for comprehensive immigration reform got a bit brighter today, as U.S. business and labor groups reportedly drew closer to an agreement on how to structure a guest worker program aimed at low-skill immigrants. According to the New York Times, the potential accord between the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO would "clear one of the last hurdles" standing in the way of a bipartisan Senate bill. 

That's great news and all. But it's worth noting the depressing circumstances underpinning it: Congress, it appears, has gone and outsourced its job to the lobbyists. Explicitly. New York Senator Chuck Schumer has said outright that he and his colleagues would wait on a recommendation from the AFL-CIO, representing the Democratic voice, and the Chamber, for conservatives, before touching the guest-worker issue themselves.  

And from a strategic perspective, that makes a grim sort of sense. George W. Bush's 2007 attempt at reform was doomed in part by a clash between business and labor. Nobody wants to hit that iceberg again, and getting the two sides to the table ahead of time is nothing if not efficient. Same goes for having them talk directly to each other, rather than through their preferred elected officials. It's not uncommon for industry groups to consult legislators and advise them through these sorts of side-bar negotiations. But seeing it so plainly sort of underscores the idea that our politicians are basically ventriloquist dummies for their donor bases.

Then again, with Congress' recent track record, and its approval ratings, maybe this isn't such a bad idea. After all, when you can't do the job in-house, outsourcing makes a lot of sense.

Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In