NOW with Alex Wagner | February 05, 2013
>>> from illegals to shadow people . it's tuesday, february 5th , and this is "now."
>> joining us msnbc political analyst and former rnc chairman the notorious michael steele , senior editor at "the atlantic" garansce and queen bee of the grio.com joy reid. president obama is making a full court press on policy. after yesterday's speech on gun safety , today he is focussing on immigration . the president is meeting with labor leaders at the white house right now and will speak with business leaders this afternoon.
>> members are in class. the judiciary hearing on immigration features testimony from duke, harvard, and nyu professors. republican committee chair bob goodlot says the purpose of the hearing is to educate freshmen congressman who know very little about the complexities of reform. lesson number one is already clear. move past last year's republican rhetoric on self-deportation and electrified fences.
>> this debate is often emotionally charged. that's because it's not about abstract statistics and concepts, but rather about real people with real problems trying to provide a better life for their families.
>> we seek to harmonize two foundational preaccepts. number one is humanity. number two is respect for the rule of law.
>> humane rhetoric? yes, but humane policies? question mark . republican leadership is transcribinging a decidedly softer tone on immigration , but the party will still have to contend with members like carrie who said, "what are you seeing here is a shameless political ploy to buy new voters. democrats want the votes, and republicans the cheap labor. immigration reform shouldn't be about buying off lawbreakers so they'll consider becoming republican." joining us now so give us the straight dope is die hard kanye west fan nbc's luke russert . i say that, my friend, because we couldn't play the actual track, but i wanted america to know.
>> because you won't pay the money for the royalties. it's okay. someday we'll get there.
>> i didn't say that. luke , i -- we led into this with the promise of straight dope , and i ask you, my friend, what's going to happen in the house on immigration ? as i highlighted just now, there are some members of the house caucus that seem, shall we say, not moving towards the center on this issue. eric cantor seems to be changing his song a little bit, and the hearings themselves would seem to indicate a party that wants to reform itself in ernest on reform.
>> after the bipartisan agreement on the senate to a pathway to citizenship that was endorsed by marco rubio of all people, the onus is really on what the house of representatives will do.
>> house speaker john boehner , he had three occasions. he declined to endorse a pathway to citizenship overtly. that doesn't mean he won't support it in the future, but he just sort of said, look, we need to set in the house to come together and work their will with legislation. what i can tell you is there's a bipartisan group in the house of representatives that is trying to craft literal legislation as we speak. what's the difference from that from what the senate was doing last week? well, the senate sort of had a framework of where they wanted to go. the house will have little legislation that will he they feel will be acceptable to both sides that perhaps would contain a pathway to citizenship. the main thing here is eric cantor at 1:00 p.m . is going to give a speech that sort of is trying to remake the gop in a softer lens, if you will. i read the excerpts of the speech. i can tell you if you look at that speech, eric cantor will be moving more towards the middle on immigration . that's all i can say. you see the speech actually at 1:00 p.m ., then there's a sort of new tune.
>> right here on msnbc.
>> from the majority leader.
>> luke , wait. before we get to the eric cantor remarks, which, of course, we can't really discuss, let's talk about the secret bipartisan group in the house . they may get more legislatively specific than the senate , which is surprising, i think, to a lot of people given the fact that you have really progressive voiz on immigration reform like ru ease gutierrez working along folks like raul labrador. where is the middle ground there? how does that work?
>> well, i think where you'll see there is the idea of the pathway to sit sfwlenship if they feel they can get 65, 70, 80 of their members to join across with democrats, it's worth it to them in the long run in order to try and save the party, if you will, to try and grow the party and expand the electorate to move forward on this and not get hauled off down on a way they don't want to go by the most extreme 30 members here. what that plan will actually look like -- i mean, you have ru ease gutierrez, some of the conservative members from texas . i suspect there will be a pathway to citizenship. maybe it's a piecemeal approach. at least you have a way for kids that are brought here by their parents illegally to become sit sfwlenz. that seems to be where a lot of republicans want to go on that so they don't appear that they're mean-spirited. you also probably will see something in there about high skilled immigrant visas, and then something in there about border security , which is the main question we've been getting at. what is the border security that would be acceptable to house republicans? is it a drone, a fence with guns? you know, who knows?
>> let's roll the sound. i mean, we have the clip. let's -- this is what herman cain proposed in 2011 .
>> to have a real fence 20 feet high with barbed wire electrified with a sign on the other side that says "it can kill you."
>> let me bring in our panel here in new york. michael steele , that -- that herman cain sound, while highly amusing and ridiculous, is -- i mean, look, as luke says, the border piece of this, the security piece will probably be inextricably tied. i guess the question, is, a, if the rhetoric around security is this a case of one step forward , one step back?
>> no, i don't think so. i mean, i think that luke has touched on some of the dine mechanics that are in play right now when you look at the players on the g po p side that are coming together to carve out something. obviously, the border security piece is a major foundational proponent of any reform effort. the key i've taken note of is the human side of it. recognizing there are human beings here. families and individuals. what the dance is going to be is how they bring those pieces together to make them actually a part of a broader plan that can work with the senate and what's been -- that rubio has been putting out on that end, and that also and the base will not just say y'all come.
>> i don't think y'all come is being proposed by anybody.
>> for a lot of folks that is what they fear is going to be proposed. that has to be addressed. the second piece that i think is very important and cannot be overlooked, whatever the leadership does, house , senate , doesn't matter, they've got to square that ultimately with the base. at the end of the day it all comes back home. if the folks on the ground don't feel it, it's not going to happen, and it's not going to happen or at least not happen the way they expect it to.
>> luke just said we may be seeing the end of the hastert rule, which is a majority of the majority. i mean, it sounds sort of like they're going to try and go forward without parts of the base at least.
>> i think they're going to have to. look, the republican are the guys that understand the electoral math are saying that we've got to not spurn hispanic voters. we have to stop saying things like illegals. it offends people. they finally figured it out. we have to change our lingo because we are afraid that texas may become a purple state . we have to try to get some of these people m republican party . i actually think that people who believe that are being a little bit too optimistic. i don't think that just some republicans getting on board with emgregs reform is going to solve the republican party 's demographic problem with hispanic voters. i mean, if you look at polls, hispanic voters are trending democratic on issues. it isn't just about immigration . at least they have to stop saying offensive stuff like build moats with alligators and illegals. at least we're getting there.
>> it's not a pan sea to joy's point. it's not a panacea. republicans don't think -- i will be careful what i say because some do think.
>> some do.
>> you know, you start down that road with hispanics, they'll jump on board.
>> i think by and large, they have to make a move, and this is the beginning of those moves.
>> the president is taking a multi-pronged approach to this, and i thought it was really interesting that he is meeting with labor leaders. we have not discussed, you know, the issues that concern the democrats visa vi immigration reform , but essential labor and guest worker permits, all of that is going to come to the fore in terms of discussion. he is also meeting with business leaders. what's been weird is that the republicans who are theoretically the party of business, have not really made the economic argument for reforming immigration . david brooks wrote january 31st , the forlorened pundit doesn't seen have to make the humanitarian case that it would be a great victory for human dignity . the cold economic case by itself is so strong.
>> that's absolutely the case. if you look at the ram trucks and the american farmer , 70% of people who work on farms in america were born in mexico. the american farmer is a mexican-american. that's something we need to sort of accept and realize and deal with.
>> border security conversation continues to be a conversation about who doesn't belong in america , and it's a conversation about how do we keep people out? it's a conversation about the other. to the extent that's the first thing people are hearing really loudly i think that can be undermining for the gop of what they're hoping to achieve.
>> that's what i meant by the one step forward one step back thing. if we're talking about keeping them all out or sending them back that then undermines the discussi discussion.
>> can they -- can they talk about border security in a way that is not alienating the very same audience they're trying to endear themselves to?
>> and that is going to be the key to whether or not they can move forward in this, but not being scathed by democrats. i mean, democrats are in a good position here because they're on the right side of the wedge issue of immigration right now for our team. from my conversation with a lot of folks close to the gop leadership, the big fear about this is, all right, we believe we have enough people that are going to modernize and be accepting of a guest worker program , accepting of illegal immigrant children getting citizenship, perhaps being accepting to a pathway to citizenship, but what if we go forward and you hear some things said by some of our members that are deeply hurtful to the latino community? you sort of saw that in a different case in the senate elections in 2012 with murdock and akin about rape and women's rights and how that went forward. there is a fear that something outlandish could be said and that outlandish comment could then become representative of the entire gop party, and they do not want that. there definitely is a fear of that, alex. one thing that's important about big business and their support for immigration , one thing that nancy pelosi likes to tell and one thing i've seen personally on dlil, you'll get some of these republican businessmen from central part of california, arizona, texas , florida, and they all come here and say, hey, we need to fix this. at least for guest workers . if you take away these immigrants, as you have seen in alabama that had a very strict immigrant law, the crop product gets killed and profits go down.
>> that could also be used as an umbrella to get some of the raucus members of house in line, and so far it's not a humanistic article or about the other. it's about cold, hard cash . look, keep your boat shoes firmly planted many the ground, because we're going to try and get you to talk to us about gun reform after the break.
>> and after we come back, doubts grow about the possibility of getting an assault weapons ban passed in congress, but you would not know that from listening to president obama . we will examine the 1994 law and the case for a new legislative fight next on "now." if it wasn't