As a former White House insider in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, Rahm Emanuel has worked closely with Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. But when it comes to who would be the better Democratic presidential candidate come 2016, his mind is made up.
Emanuel votes Hillary.
“If she chooses to run, I've already said I'm going to support her,” the mayor of Chicago told “Power Players.”
"Joe's a good friend, personally,” said Emanuel. “He's obviously worthy of being considered because he's a great vice president, a great senator, has something to offer … In this case, so does the former secretary of state, senator, and first lady.”
Though Emanuel said he is confident that Clinton would win a hypothetical presidential matchup if she chooses to run, he added that Clinton is weighing the prospects of a presidential bid against other personal life factors.
“She's about to be a grandmother,” he said. “And she cares about that, and making sure she has the time. Being a congressman, being a mayor, being a president, being a candidate for president, time is not one of the commodities you have a lot of.”
Emanuel sat down with “Power Players” along with fellow Illinois Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez before a panel discussion on immigration reform at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. He said that the Republican Party cannot survive on the national stage without changing course on immigration reform.
“I think the ‘leaders of the Republican Party' know where the future is heading, the current of history is heading,” Emanuel said. “The problem is to get there, the boat breaks that they're on. In national elections you cannot be a majority party and be hostile to immigrants.”
For the GOP, Emanuel said, it’s no longer a question of “will” the party change course, but “when.”
Gutierrez described what he sees as a “fight within the Republican Party” between those who stand starkly in opposition to reform as a matter of principle and those who want reform for the sake of the party’s national standing. He pointed to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as an example of a pro-reform voice within the GOP.
“I think when you hear Jeb Bush and other Republican leaders speak about immigration … I don't want to question their motives of where their heart is at, many of them have their heart exactly where Rahm Emanuel and I have our heart,” he said. “And that is to do well and to make sure people have a system that is fair.”
Gutierrez also acknowledged that the slow pace of change on the issue and the record number of deportations under President Obama have not been helpful to Democrats. But, he said, President Obama is preparing to take executive action to reform the country’s immigration system if Congress does not put forth legislation by the summer’s end.
“If Republicans do not act, I assure them that this president will act, in a huge, very broad manner,” Gutierrez said. “If it's the end of the summer, and, Jim, you look at me and say, ‘Luis, for all your optimism, you know nothing's going to happen,’ the president is going to act in a very expansive manner.”
Emanuel also believes that Obama will “absolutely” act if Congress does not, “because certain issues are so urgent to the nation's future that a president must act.”
“He can't legalize them, but he can stop their deportation, and put them in a safe place,” Gutierrez added. “If they want to simply be a regional party, a party of little cities, and regions in a few states, okay, because that is your future. Abraham Lincoln … first Republican president, George Bush, 2004, you watch, he's going to be the last Republican president for a long time.”
For more of the interview with Emanuel and Gutierrez, including what sets Chicago apart as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants, check out this episode of “Power Players.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, John Bullard, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.