A month ago, we would have bet the ranch that Congress would pass some sort of immigration reform this year. Now, we are not quite so confident.
We still believe that a majority of lawmakers in both houses, and on both sides of the aisle, agree that something ought to be done about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.
But the momentum on Capitol Hill for comprehensive immigration reform, which was almost palpable last month, has clearly diminished. President Barack Obama almost certainly had a lot to do with it. With eight senators, Democrats and Republicans, working to fashion an immigration reform bill that could win bipartisan support, the White House leaked its own competing immigration reform proposal about three weeks ago.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, spoke for many of his fellow Republicans when he said Obama’s proposal was “disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution.”
Then, there was the president’s decision to go negative against Republicans during the run-up to the sequester, insisting that they would bear much of the blame for the “series of immediate, painful, arbitrary budget cuts.”
The GOP “chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit,” the president charged, adding, “they decided that protecting special interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts.”
And as if the harsh rhetoric emanating from the Oval Office was not enough to all but destroy relations with his loyal opposition on Capitol Hill, Obama decided to dramatize the deleterious consequence of the sequester by releasing some 2,000 illegal immigrants detained by Homeland Security for criminal offenses.
Even newspapers that sided with the president in his battle with Republicans over the sequester, like the Boston Globe, editorialized that the Obama administration’s wholesale release of so many undocumented detainees wasn’t the correct response to sequestration.
We would add that it also wasn’t helpful to the cause of immigration reform because the biggest concern voiced by many Republicans was border security and related issues. It is hard to see how Obama’s prisoner dump did much to allay those legitimate security concerns.
But the president is nothing if not politically astute. Recognizing that he overplayed his hand in the sequester scrum, he reached out to Republicans last week in what Reuters described as a “schmooze offensive,” actually breaking bread with selected GOP lawmakers. It remains to be seen if Obama’s outreach leads to a thaw in his frosty relations with Republicans. At least enough to enact bipartisan immigration reform legislation this year.
— From the Orange County Register