Immigration reform No. 2 on Obama’s to do list for Congress

With the impasse of the past few weeks lifted, President Barack Obama rolled out a “to do” list for Congress with immigration reform as Item No. 2.

Obama has been pledging to push anew on immigration reform once the political brinkmanship that had shut down the government and pushed the country close to defaulting on its debt was resolved.

A temporary solution came Wednesday afternoon, spurring Obama to set forth an agenda for the remaining weeks of the quickly dwindling congressional year.

Along with passing a budget, No. 1 and a farm bill, No. 3, Obama said “we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.”

“If the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them,” Obama said, referring to the bipartisan immigration bill the Senate passed in June. The House has refused to consider it, preferring to craft several bills separately addressing various aspects of the issue.

“Let’s start the negotiations, but let’s not leave this problem to fester for another year, or two years, or three years. This can and should get done by the end of this year,” he said.

Earlier Thursday, the Democratic National Committee’s chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said in an interview with NBC Latino that the sense of urgency that led House Speaker John Boehner to ultimately keep the nation from defaulting on its debt with Wednesday’s vote doesn’t exist for the GOP when it comes to immigration reform.

Asked whether GOP House members who support immigration reform could ultimately prevail over conservative House members to help move an immigration bill, she let out a sigh and shook her head.

“Immigration reform is not going to have the same urgency,” said Wasserman Schultz. “There’s no cliff over which you are going to go over unless you look at the presidential election for them.”

She was adamant that her skepticism does not mean immigration reform wouldn’t happen this year.

“I’m going to be a glass is half-full person … We are going to create as much momentum and give the Republicans as many opportunities as we can to come to the table and recognize this is an important and priority issue,” said Wasserman Schultz, whose southeast Florida district includes Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Wasserman Schultz released a book this week titled “For the Next Generation,” that she said explains to people outside the Beltway several key issues whose delay by gridlock in Congress puts American children’s future at risk.

The book includes a chapter on immigration. In it she argues that President Barack Obama has increased enforcement during his presidency, auditing 7,533 companies who hired workers illegally in the U.S. and assessed $100 million in fines setting a foundation for working on other parts of the broken immigration system.

Some Republican members already have expressed views this week that demonstrated they are not in a hurry to move on immigration.

Rep. Raul Labrador said in a forum organized by The Heritage Foundation, that Obama is trying to destroy the Republican party and “anything we do right now with the president on immigration will be with the same goal in mind.”

The Idaho Republican, who quit a now-defunct House bipartisan group trying to negotiate an immigration bill, accused the president of negotiating in bad faith with Republicans on a litany of issues including the debt ceiling and government shutdown. “If the president is going to show the same kind of good faith efforts he’s shown in the last couple of weeks, I think it would be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with him on immigration,” Labrador said.

He said Obama is trying to destroy the Republican Party “and anything we do right now with this president on immigration will be with the same goal in mind.”

At the same forum, Rep. Matthew Salmon, R-Arizona, said he had recently spoken to Boehner and was told if there is any House-Senate conference committee on immigration, “it will be on specific bills we send over,” not on the Senate bill.

Boehner has previously expressed interest in tackling immigration reform, mindful of the growing Latino vote and the party’s poor showing in 2012 with Latino voters.

“The speaker remains committed to a common sense, step-by-step approach that ensures we get immigration reform done right. That’s why the committees of the House continue to work on this important issue,” said Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman.

Izzy Santa, spokeswoman for Republican National Committee, said there’s still time to develop a solution to fix the immigration system “and stays true to conservative principles.”

In a conference call Thursday on immigration and the Latino vote, Ben Monterroso, national political director for Mi Familia Vota, a social justice group, said the House has the votes to pass immigration reform legislation. Republicans should “show the way if they truly want to embrace the Latino community,” Monterroso said.

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