First, and sadly, I need to acknowledge the death of a great figure from Congress, Bill Frenzel of Minnesota. Bill was my congressman and also a dear friend. I worked especially closely with him on the Office of Congressional Ethics, where he was a stalwart member, helping to ensure its integrity and providing some of the glue that meant that all of its decisions, from a diverse membership cutting across all partisan and ideological lines, were unanimous. That was Frenzel, a throwback to an earlier era both in Congress and in the Republican Party. He was a bridge-builder, not a bomb-thrower, a free-market, business-oriented conservative who knew how to find common ground and forge compromises. I mourn his loss and the loss of his model in the GOP, both in Washington and Minnesota.
Will there be anything left of this compromise and common ground? With the apparent determination of President Obama to issue his executive order on immigration this week, the lame-duck session in Congress takes on a fascinating set of twists. I tweeted last week, "House Republicans say Obama exec action on immigration will make it toxic for a decade. From the lovefest it's been for the past decade." The reality is that there were ample opportunities over the past four years for the House of Representatives to take a constructive step on immigration, especially after the big, super-majority vote in the Senate on a comprehensive bill. It declined to do so. Meanwhile, the favorite GOP talking point on the subject has been that Democrats had majorities in both chambers in 2009 and 2010 and failed to act. Which neatly ignores another reality: During that time, the House passed handily the Dream Act, a major step toward broader immigration reform. There was majority support in the Senate. Guess what? Mitch McConnell led a filibuster that killed the Dream.