A prominent Senate Democrat is asking Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to put off her state's controversial new immigration law for a year to give Congress a chance to pass a federal law — a long-shot request on a bill that even the White House says is nearly dead.
"There's not enough support to move forward," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
But among Democrats, there's plenty of support for trying — in public — during this year of midterm elections. The party's control of Congress depends in part on keeping a key constituency — Hispanics — voting Democratic.
Hence, at a Cinco de Mayo celebration Wednesday at the White House, Obama said he wanted to start work on immigration legislation this year.
And in a letter to Brewer on Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., raised an unlikely path to passage for the troubled immigration proposal stalled in the Senate.
Delay for a year the date the Arizona law takes effect, Schumer proposed, and push one of Arizona's two Republican senators to support the Democrats' outline for an overhaul of the immigration law.
The year delay would give Congress a chance, Schumer wrote, to pass a comprehensive federal law that would toughen borders and forge a path to citizenship for millions here illegally. That would be more effective than the state law, the New York senator argued.
Scant time passed before Brewer's spokesman delivered her answer: No.
Even if she had agreed to call the legislature back into special session to make the delay official, it was highly unlikely that Sens. John McCain or Jon Kyl would change their minds and support the Democrats' proposal.
Schumer's short-lived idea was the Democrats' latest effort to look like they're not abandoning immigration reform at a time when Arizona passed the toughest crackdown in the nation. It's true that no Republican is openly supporting the bill, but it's not clear that all of the Democrats are behind it, either.
Obama has told reporters that after health care reform, there's a dearth of appetite in Congress for yet another divisive debate this election year.
The outcome of fall elections could determine whether Congress takes up immigration next year. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an original sponsor who has backed away from the immigration bill, has said it could be done in 2012, when Obama is up for re-election.
Hispanic voters have long been frustrated that Obama's campaign promise to pass immigration reform has not happened. Some members of the House Hispanic Caucus agreed to vote for his health care overhaul on the understanding that he would push immigration reform through this year.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, struggling through is own tough re-election bid in heavily Hispanic Nevada, considered bringing it to the floor of the Senate ahead of energy and climate change legislation.
Then Obama told reporters that there's no appetite in Congress for an immigration fight this year. Senate Democrats unveiled an immigration outline — not a bill — the next day nonetheless.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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