More Strange Bedfellows: Times Aligns With Business, Docs vs. GOP

In two consecutive lead stories, the Times take the side of business organizations in spats against Republican policies.

Strange bedfellows redux: Sunday's lead story by pro-illegal immigrant reporter Julia Preston followedthe Times pattern of using the concerns of business (generally not a big priority for the paper) to boost the prospects of illegal immigrants, and unveiling a "G.O.P. rift" as a bonus. The full story title provides the appropriate flavor: "Employers Fight Tough Measures on Immigration - Reopening a G.O.P. Rift - Business Pushing Back Amid Crackdowns by States and Cities."

Under pressure from the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in two decades, employers across the country are fighting back in state legislatures, the federal courts and city halls.

Business groups have resisted measures that would revoke the licenses of employers of illegal immigrants. They are proposing alternatives that would revise federal rules for verifying the identity documents of new hires and would expand programs to bring legal immigrant laborers.

Though the pushback is coming from both Democrats and Republicans, in many places it is reopening the rift over immigration that troubled the Republican Party last year. Businesses, generally Republican stalwarts, are standing up to others within the party who accuse them of undercutting border enforcement and jeopardizing American jobs by hiring illegal immigrants as cheap labor.

Employers in Arizona were stung by a law passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature that revokes the licenses of businesses caught twice with illegal immigrants. They won approval in this year's session of a narrowing of that law making clear that it did not apply to workers hired before this year.

Last week, an Arizona employers' group submitted more than 284,000 signatures - far more than needed - for a November ballot initiative that would make the 2007 law even friendlier to employers.

Also in recent months, immigration bills were defeated in Indiana and Kentucky - states where control of the legislatures is split between Democrats and Republicans - due in part to warnings from business groups that the measures could hurt the economy.

Mickey Kaus noticed the prominent placement ofPreston's pro-immigrant story on a slow news day (emphasis added).

Robert Pear is the acknowledged master at sneaking not-as-important-as-they-sound policy stories into the lead position on the NYT front page on slow news days. These Pear pieces are often leaks from liberal interest groups, who then benefit from the prime placement. But it was Julia Preston who pulled a Pear yesterday, with a lead A-1 piece that seemed to be mainly a press release for Tamar Jacoby's new lobbying organization, ImmigrationWorks USA.

1) Some of Preston's evidence of an employer fight-back against the immigration crackdown is ludicrously weak. "Unhappy California business won the support of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who wrote a letter" protesting immigration raids. Yes, a letter! From a mayor!

As if to prove Kaus correct, on Monday (another slow-ish news day) the Times ran yet another lead story with unlikely sympathies for a group (doctors) that happen to be attacking Republicans -"Doctors Press Senate to Undo Medicare Cuts." The author? Health care reporter....Robert Pear!

Pear's lede certainly didn't hurt the doctors' (and Democrats') cause:

Congress returns to work this week with Medicare high on the agenda and Senate Republicans under pressure after a barrage of radio and television advertisements blamed them for a 10.6 percent cut in payments to doctors who care for millions of older Americans.

The advertisements, by the American Medical Association, urge Senate Republicans to reverse themselves and help pass legislation to fend off the cut.

How to pay doctors through the federal health insurance program is an issue that lawmakers are forced to confront every year because of what is widely agreed to be an outdated reimbursement formula. But the dispute, which showcases the continued potency of health care issues, has reached a new level of urgency this year. Some doctors are reassessing their participation in the program and powerful interests on all sides are in a lobbying frenzy.

Just before the Fourth of July recess, the House passed a bill to prevent the Medicare pay cut by a vote of 355 to 59. In the Senate, Republicans blocked efforts to take up the bill, so the cut took effect on July 1, as required by the formula. But the Bush administration has delayed processing of new claims to give Congress time to come up with a compromise.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said he planned to force another vote this week, and Democrats pressed their case over the weekend in their national radio address.