Democratic congressional leaders are vowing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year that would give amnesty to an estimated 11 million immigrants living and working the United States illegally.
The votes are there, they say. All they need now is time to push it through.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he has the votes to pass such legislation, which also would create a new guest-worker program for employers. The stumbling block is persuading senators to deal with such a politically charged issue, he told reporters.
“What is impeding comprehensive immigration reform is any floor time to do it,” Reid said. “I think we have the floor votes to do it.
“I’m going to do comprehensive immigration reform. I’m not going to do it piecemeal. That's an excuse for everybody to do too little.
“We're going to do it all at once,” he said, “and we're going to have comprehensive immigration reform that will include taking care of our borders, a decent guest-worker program, bringing the 11 million people out of the shadows, doing something that is so important with the employer sanctions bill that really is a catch-22 for everyone.”
“We're going to do it all in one piece of legislation, not give people an excuse that they voted for one thing and think that they're through with it,” Reid said.
But Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters Republicans can’t act on the issue until they see an immigration plan from the Obama administration.
“What we need is a plan from the president of the United States,” Cornyn said.
And House Minority Leader John Boehner says not so fast. He told CNSNews.com that he will work against immigration reform, because Democrats already have too many big issues on Congress’ plate.
“I suggested to a group last week that being in Congress this year has been like standing in front of a machine gun,” Boehner said.
“Whether it’s the stimulus bill, the omnibus appropriation bill, whether it was the trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye could see in the budget, (or) whether it’s the proposal taking over our health-care system, a national energy tax — and now somebody’s going to suggest that we’re going to try to do immigration reform in the midst of all this? How much is enough?”
But Democrats don’t seem worried about not having the Republican votes. They need only to convince President Barack Obama that they have the time and the inclination after dealing with healthcare and climate (cap-and-trade) bills. Obama will convene a meeting Thursday with select senators and representatives to discuss the immigration issue.
Although Obama championed the cause of immigration reform during the presidential race, he has less incentive to move now, according to his aides.
“The difference between the campaign trail and the Oval Office is political reality. As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted last week, ‘The votes aren't there right now,’" states an editorial in The Christian Science Monitor.
“For one thing, the timing is all wrong. A move to put the country's 11.6 million illegal immigrants on a ‘path to citizenship’ — and legal jobs — would upset Americans mired in a deep recession.”
And second, “The White House has put two big legislative priorities ahead of immigration this year: healthcare and energy. That's a lot for Congress to digest – maybe too much.”
But those concerns don't seem to be weighing on liberal Democrats in the House and Senate. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that Obama is in synch with the Democratic leadership in both houses to get immigration reform done.
“The president has made it clear that he believes that we need to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill. I agree with him on that. The speaker (of the House Nancy Pelosi) agrees with him on that. Senator Reid agrees with him on that,” Hoyer said during a press briefing.
“As you know, Senator McCain agreed on that for a period of time,” Hoyer said. “On the campaign, it was a little less clear — I’m so diplomatic — less clear what Senator McCain believed.
“But we hope in a bipartisan way, we have a lot of people in this country who are going to be in this country,” Hoyer said. “President Bush — we agree with President Bush that we need comprehensive immigration reform. So the answer to your question is: Yes, I agree and hopefully we are going to move forward on it as early perhaps as this fall — accomplishing that objective.”
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