It looks like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may have called House Speaker John Boehner’s bluff on immigration reform.
Boehner last week all but foreclosed prospects for House action on immigration reform this year, insisting that the House GOP couldn’t possibly move on such consequential legislation until President Obama had won the trust of his members.
“The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be,” Boehner told reporters last Thursday, citing executive actions by the Obama administration that have changed or delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
It was a convenient, albeit lame, excuse by Boehner to backtrack on his earlier call for action this year on major immigration reform. Boehner released his long-awaited immigration overhaul principles Jan. 30 during a House GOP retreat, for the first time laying out a broad GOP-backed pathway to legalized status for undocumented immigrants.
But he was forced to back down last week after many of his conservative members folded under relentless opposition to immigration action this year from the Heritage Foundation and other outside conservative groups and political thinkers.
Schumer, appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” offered a creative solution: House Republicans should join with Senate Democrats in passing immigration reforms this year, but with the proviso that it wouldn’t take effect until 2017, after Obama leaves office.
“Now I think that the rap against him — that he won’t enforce the law — is false,” Schumer said of the president. “He’s deported more people than any other president, but you could actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it.”
But almost immediately, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel pooh-poohed Schumer’s proposal, calling it “entirely impractical,” according to Politico. The suggestion “would totally eliminate the president’s incentive to enforce immigration law for the remainder of his term,” Steel said.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who appeared on “Meet the Press” with Schumer, said he believed fellow Republicans could get on board with the New York Democrat’s idea. Portman last year voted against the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that Schumer helped draft after Portman failed to secure changes to the bill that would have bolstered workplace verification provisions.
“I think some Republicans would be interested in that, if we put in place the enforcement measures so that it would work,” Portman said. “In other words, be sure the border is secure, be sure that you have a workforce enforcement program that works.”
Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said lawmakers should not reject Schumer’s proposal outright, noting that it would take a minimum of a year to 18 months anyway to write regulations and do other procedural steps to prepare for implementation of new immigration laws, Politico reported.
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