Although the president has some political capital available to push for immigration reform, Republicans know they still hold some cards on when and how it gets done.
The House has been taking on immigration reform a piece at a time, passing separate bills to deal with different aspects of the multi-faceted issue, rather than producing a single sweeping bill that deals with it all in one place.
While President Barack Obama said Thursday that polls show the American people want immigration reform, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said Americans support his step-by-step method of taking on the issue, citing a July Washington Post/ABC News poll.
Goodlatte compared the Senate immigration reform bill to the sweeping Affordable Care Act that Republicans have been fighting to keep from being implemented, most recently through the government shutdown and through a near-default on the debt before a deal was reached.
“Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform and I remain committed to working on this critical issue,” Goodlatte said in a statement issued Thursday night. “But we don’t need another massive, Obamacare-like bill that is full of surprises and dysfunction after it becomes law.”
Goodlatte added that “the President’s unworkable health care system highlights the need for a more thoughtful approach to immigration reform so that the end product is actually workable and enforceable.”
A handful of bills have been approved in the House Judiciary committee, and others dealing with the legalization of adults and young immigrants are being drafted.
Republicans are insisting that any immigration reform put a priority on border security and enforcement of laws within the U.S. interior. The House Homeland Security Committee also has advanced a bill.
“It’s imperative that we avoid the same type of disasters that we are currently witnessing in the botched Obamacare rollout,” Goodlatte said. “The President should work with Congress, including House Republicans, to achieve immigration reform and not against us.”
In a White House East Room speech Thursday, Obama touted the bipartisan bill passed in the Senate and said that if Republicans have ideas then “let’s hear them.” He recalled that former President George W. Bush supported immigration reform. Obama said when he was a senator, he voted with 23 Republicans for immigration reform.
“It’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether immigration reform becomes a reality or not,” Obama said.
Looming over the discussion are the 2014 mid-term elections and how the timing of the passage of a bill will affect them. Republicans have to consider their conservative base, as well as whether they further alienate the Latino vote for later elections.