Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly said birthright citizenship should be handled by Congress, a move that appears to be a shift to the right as he fights sinking poll numbers amid the waning days of the midterms.
“I’m the only person on this stage who voted three times for a border wall. I voted against sanctuary cities. I’ve stood for secure borders with John McCain when in 2013, we passed legislation that would have provided an additional 20,000 border agents to the border,” Donnelly said during a Tuesday night debate.
The topic of birthright citizenship — a law that grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. land — has been heavily discussed after President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that he plans to attempt signing an executive order ending the law. While both Donnelly and his Republican challenger Mike Braun, a businessman and former state representative, both did not commit to supporting an executive order, they were open to reform at the congressional level.
“How this should be handled is by the Congress. I heard you say that Lindsey Graham is going to put legislation forward” to terminate it, Donnelly continued. “We have to take a look at that legislation.”
Donnelly’s tough immigration stance comes as he is fighting for his political life. The first-term Democratic senator faces re-election Tuesday in a state that voted for Trump by a near 20-point margin and whose former governor is now the vice president of the United States. Indiana is viewed as one of the Senate Republicans’ best pickup opportunities.
A survey released Tuesday showed Braun leading by 3 points, with the GOP challenger pulling in 49 percent to Donnelly’s 46 percent. It was the latest in a string of polls that showed Donnelly to be in trouble. A survey released Sunday had Braun ahead by 3 points and another published earlier in October found Braun to be up by 4 points.
“When it came time to vote on Justice Kavanaugh, first [Donnelly] said he wanted an FBI investigation. Then he got one. Then it was the rushed process. Then it was temperament. That’s not common sense, [Donnelly] that’s just blowin’ in the wind,” Braun said in a Twitter statement Tuesday.
The Republican challenger has credited the Kavanaugh confirmation battle as one of the reasons for his poll number bounce.
The comments on birthright citizenship were not the only attention-grabbing comments Donnelly made during the debate. The Democratic senator used odd phrasing when crediting minority staffers working on his campaign. Donnelly said he has minorities working for him, “but” they do an “amazing job.”
“Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job,” the Democrat said. “Our director of all constituent services, she’s African-American. But she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine.”
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