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Obama Pushing Again for Immigration Reform

Obama Pushing Again for Immigration Reform

By Alexis Simendinger - November 5, 2013

President Obama this week is championing a menu of domestic issues he wants to move through Congress in the weeks left in this congressional session, including most prominently immigration reform.

House members have 16 days left this year to complete legislative work, and lobbyists and advocates for reform among the GOP in Congress are pulling out the stops in the final weeks to encourage them to cast their votes.

On Tuesday morning, the president is expected to repeat his bipartisan sales pitch that a comprehensive approach to fixing the country’s immigration system would be good for the economy and job creation.

He’ll surround himself with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room to repeat his entreaty to the House to take up a Senate-passed measure or a series of bills favored by House Republicans in a long-odds effort to keep one of the year’s most ambitious legislative projects from grinding to a halt.

The painful government shutdown and October’s preoccupation with the disastrous implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s online enrollment system pushed the immigration debate out of the spotlight this fall. Obama is trying to enliven its chances by reprising his role as the outside “cheerleader,” as some senators called him earlier this year.

But as the White House discovered during the shutdown drama and brinksmanship with default in October, many conservative lawmakers turned deaf ears to the business community’s economic arguments on those issues -- and conservative lawmakers may be similarly unmoved by business leaders whose hopes for an immigration overhaul are no secret.

Earlier this year, the president hoped that political arguments -- the opportunity for Republicans to patch up rocky relations with Hispanics by getting immigration reform done and off the table -- might encourage House Speaker John Boehner and his conference to act. Many Democrats say they’re worried the Tea Party’s visible drive to challenge fellow conservatives heading into the 2014 midterms may have scuttled chances for passage of immigration reform for another year.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was among the original proponents of the comprehensive measure that passed the Senate by a vote of 68-32 in June, this week withdrew his support for the bill he helped write. He’s endorsed a piecemeal, multi-bill approach favored by House leaders, which has an uncertain future. House leaders, for instance, believe their members want to cast votes on tougher border security, but oppose the Senate-passed pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers already in the country.

The White House favors the Senate bill, but has opened the door to the House approach, as long as the end product can be called “comprehensive.”

In the meantime, Obama wants to keep a public spotlight on the issue -- and on his willingness to work for passage.

“It has broad bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans, business and labor leaders, law enforcement and faith leaders,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “It’s good for business, it’s good for our economy as a whole, and it is the right thing to do. We believe it is time for the House to follow the Senate and take action.”

The White House cites data estimating that overhauling the immigration system and bringing 11 million undocumented people out of the shadows would add $1.4 trillion to the economy over 20 years, or 5.4 percent to GDP by 2033, while reducing projected deficits by nearly $850 billion over two decades.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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