Rush Limbaugh attacked President Obama for his comments on Limbaugh's influence over Republican lawmakers. But in 2007, Republicans on both sides of the immigration reform debate highlighted Limbaugh's influence on Republican attitudes towards the bill, which they eventually defeated.
After the president told The New Republic that it's easier to pass bipartisan legislation if a Republican lawmaker "isn't "punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest," Limbaugh responded by saying that Obama was "trying to goad [him] into saying something extreme." But Limbaugh soon proved the president's point by declaring that it was up to him to stop the new comprehensive immigration reform effort and debating the issue with one of its sponsors, Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
Obama isn't the only one who has pointed out Limbaugh's ability to persuade Republican lawmakers from cooperating with Democrats on bipartisan legislation -- several Republicans singled Limbaugh out for his role in the previous attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who opposed immigration reform in 2007, touted Limbaugh's role in its defeat, saying that right-wing talk radio was "a big factor" in opposing the bill and that the Senate was trying to pass it "before Rush Limbaugh could tell the American people what was in it."
Republican supporters of the bill also called out Limbaugh's influence. A May 27, 2007, Los Angeles Times article reported that then-Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) "directed his criticism squarely at Limbaugh" when he said: "He has emotion on his side, but I think I have logic on mine." And on May 16, 2007, President George W. Bush's White House Press Secretary Tony Snow -- who had previously guest hosted Limbaugh's show during his talk radio career -- appeared as a guest on The Rush Limbaugh Show to sell the radio host on comprehensive immigration reform:
LIMBAUGH: [O]ne of the things happening in the Senate right now that's of extreme interest to people in the White House and out is this immigration bill, and I've heard a couple of things about it and I want you to tell me if what I'm hearing is right or wrong. One thing is that the Senate's trying to push this thing through without senators having a chance to read the whole thing. It's 600 pages. They're trying to move a procedural vote forward to get a vote going without debate on this much, because there's so much in it that is confusing and, I mean, 600 pages is a lot of things, and a lot of people are upset that anybody would sign a bill that they haven't read, even though that's more common than people know.
SNOW: (laughs) Well, a couple things first. We're still in negotiations on this. But the fact is, folks are going to have time to read this, and they're going to have time to look at the fine print. The other thing is, you gotta keep in mind one of the guys who's leading the charge on the Senate side is Jon Kyl, who himself has been skeptical of immigration reform in some senses. So I think for conservatives, they ought to feel a certain level of comfort that a guy who has been with them -- and let's face it, Jon Kyl is not the kind of guy who ever backs away from principle. So this is the kind of thing that ought to be inspiring confidence.