Opponents of Mike Coffman could take issue with the Denver Post’s decision to endorse the congressman again. But the Post does their readers a disservice when they praise Coffman for urging fellow Republicans to “stop stalling” on immigration reform while simultaneously conceding that he opposed the 2013 Gang of Eight bill in the Senate.
For Republicans grappling with immigration in 2013, opposing the Senate’s Gang of Eight plan was more than just splitting hairs on the particulars of a bill – or advocating a “slower” approach, as the Post characterized it. Rather it was a decision that doomed reform in an attempt to appease anti-immigrant hardliners in the conservative base.
For Mike Coffman, it also meant that this so-called “leader” on immigration reform placed himself squarely to the right of Republicans like John McCain and Marco Rubio, senators who actually took a position and passed legislation.
Coffman has since tried to cover up for his opposition by saying he believes comprehensive reform can be done in pieces. What the media in general has failed to understand, however, is that this procedural talking point represents Coffman’s biggest and most craven reversal on the issue.
Congress usually passes landmark pieces of legislation by clearing the deck of all sticky issues at once and including give-and-take compromises designed to attract enough supporters from both parties to ensure passage. That’s why the word “comprehensive” in immigration reform is so important.
Back in September 2012, Mike Coffman was telling the same Denver Post editorial board that he rejected a “piecemeal” approach to immigration reform. When the ed board tried to pin him down on specifics, Coffman repeatedly deflected the questions on what he would support by challenging others to put their ideas on the table as part of a “comprehensive” bill.
By April 2014, Coffman was telling the Aurora Sentinel “We’re going to do step-by-step approach with individual bills on individual subject matters.” So what happened? Well, the US Senate, led by the Gang of Eight and Sen. Michael Bennet, actually passed a comprehensive immigration bill with a large bipartisan vote, which the Republican-controlled House promptly ignored.
In other words, Coffman urged his colleagues to stop stalling, and then he stalled.
Senator Cory Gardner was also explicit in explaining his support for “comprehensive” reform in early 2013 to his home-district paper the Greeley Tribune: “We can’t have a rifle approach to immigration, because if you don’t fix all of it together, it’s going to create some problem somewhere else in the system.”
By October 2013, when it was clear that House wouldn’t pass the Senate immigration reform bill, Gardner had this to say: “It’s becoming more and more clear to me that the House is going to have to do it in five or six bills or more, and not one massive comprehensive bill. The House will not pass the Senate bill.”
When Coffman and Gardner cut and ran from a comprehensive bill, they were also surrendering any hope of passing reform in a divided Congress. We know this because they said so.
Mike Coffman can now try and paper over the damage he did in 2013 when he buckled to party leaders on immigration reform, but much like his party’s nomination of Donald Trump, he missed his chance to do something when it mattered.
Lizeth Chacon, an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico, came to Colorado at the age of 12. Lizeth was the first one of her family to graduate from college, having received two Bachelor’s Degrees, in Political Science and Criminal Justice from the University of Colorado in 2010. She has been involved in the immigrant rights movement since 2006.