House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday might have doused the prospects for immigration reform this year, but Senate Democratic leaders are simultaneously stoking hope and bashing the GOP over the issue.
Boehner pointed to a trust gap between President Obama and lawmakers, saying members of his conference believe the administration will not enforce immigration legislation as it was intended to be.
"There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws," Boehner said. "And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes."
But key Senate Democrats viewed Boehner's comments as rhetorical compensation for political divisions in the House GOP Conference. They're also not willing to cede the issue they—along with Senate Republicans—invested so much time and energy into.
"I am not thrown back by Speaker Boehner's statement," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and a member of the immigration Gang of Eight that helped pass legislation in the Senate last year. "He's in a very difficult position. He is trying to figure out, in my judgment, how to get this done without his caucus or too many in his caucus rebelling."
But Schumer's sympathies went only so far. He continued: "But I think the leadership of the Republican Party knows that if they don't do immigration reform, they have big problems down the road, and even immediately. And this idea that it's gonna be easier to do in a presidential year? Come on."
Although they rebutted the notion that the issue is dead in the House, Senate Democrats still walloped Republicans, deploying what has become a key political cudgel: that Republicans cause D.C.'s gridlock.
"They're developing a trend here. Shutting down the government. Shutting down immigration reform. It's the Shutdown Republicans Caucus. That isn't what the American public sent us here to do," said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Sensing an opportunity to jab Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who earlier this week said the differences between the House and Senate approaches to immigration reform looked irresolvable, Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped in.
"There's been a focus on Boehner because of how he waffles on this because of his caucus," Reid said. "But don't blame Boehner alone, because the Republican leader in the Senate threw cold water on this [Tuesday]."
This article appears in the February 7, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.