Senate Dems to Boehner: Immigration Reform Is Alive, but It’s Your Fault It’s Stumbling

US House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Feb. 6, 2014, 9:41 a.m.

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].”

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