Chamber Chief Calls on Congress to Resume Work on Immigration

Monday, 12 May 2014 01:55 PM

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The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to resume work on a comprehensive immigration bill, Politico reported.

Chamber President Tom Donohue said that if Congress doesn't pass such legislation, Republicans "shouldn't bother to run a candidate" for president in 2016. Donahue quickly added that he was joking. "I just did that to get everybody's attention," Donohue said at a panel discussion in Washington on infrastructure investment.

But the quip underlined what is a serious point for Donohue: Immigration reform is critical for business, and its passage or failure in the GOP-controlled House could influence the presidential race.

"Think about who the voters are," he said Monday, alluding to the GOP's efforts to woo Hispanics, a growing bloc in key presidential states such as Florida and Texas that supports immigration reform.

Donohue and another panelist, National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons, argued that gridlock in Congress, coupled with this year's elections, don't have to prevent the House from doing as the Democratic-controlled Senate did last summer, and passing a bipartisan bill.

The Senate voted to strengthen security along U.S. borders and offer a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. The chamber and its business allies have been urging the House ever since to follow the Senate's lead and give President Barack Obama a bill he will sign.

Reform supporters see a workable timeline: The House, like the Senate last year, takes up immigration reform before Congress' August recess; a combined House-Senate bill is voted on and sent to the White House then, or in the lame-duck session between this November's elections and the start of a new Congress in January.

Donohue has angered some with his call for more immigration, with critics calling it an insult to American labor or a gambit to keep wages low.

Donohue countered, according to The Washington Times, "Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs, and, in fact, create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity, and tax revenues."

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