Is immigration reform “dead” for 2013?
President Barack Obama says: “It shouldn’t be.”
In an interview airing on Spanish-language Noticias Telemundo this evening, Obama tells interviewer Jose Diaz-Balart — brother of one of the lead Republicans on immigration in the House, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami– that the House should be able do do what the Senate did earlier this year, adopt a bill the public wants with a bipartisan vote.
“We’ve got a bill that passed with bipartisan support, strong bipartisan support in the Senate,” Obama says in response to the question. “You’ve got a president who says that this is a No. 1 priority and he can’t wait to sign– a comprehensive immigration reform bill. You’ve got the majority of the American people who are committed to immigration reform and support a pathway to citizenship for those who don’t have it….”
“And the other thing that’s holding it back right now is (House Speaker) John Boehner calling it to the floor because we’ve got a majority of members of Congress, Democrats and some Republicans, in the House of Representatives, who would vote for it right now if it hits. So this is really a question that should be directed to Mr. John Boehner. What’s stopping him from going ahead and calling that bill.”
Boehner and fellow House Republican leaders have said they will heed the will of the members — they also have a rule against passing something without a majority of their party’s caucus, and bipartisan Senate sponsors such as Dick Durbin of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona predict the way it will get through the House is with bipartisan support.
“You know– he shouldn’t be afraid of majority opinion on this thing,” the president says of the speaker. “You know if in fact the overwhelming majority of the American people think we need to do something on immigration, we’ve got a bipartisan bill. Why not go ahead and let it– let it come to the floor of the House and– and let’s see what happens.”
Is this nation “condemned” to live with massacres such as the Navy Yard and Newtown schoolhouse shootings?
“Well, we don’t have to be,” Obama says in response to the interviewer’s question. “And the overwhelming majority of the American people understand that there’s some commonsense gun safety laws that we can put in place that– could prevent some of this– tragedy from happening. It’s not gonna prevent all violence, it’s not gonna prevent all gun violence. But– you know, initial reports indicate that– this is an– an individual who may have had some mental health problems.”
After the Newtown shootings, the Senate rejected a bipartisan proposal to strengthen background checks for gun-buyers.
“The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings.,” Obama says. “And, you know… I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings. Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families and– and obviously our– our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now– as they’re absorbing this incredible loss. And yet we’re not willing to take some basic actions.”
The president says he has taken as many executive actions as possible.
“Ultimately this is something that Congress is gonna have to act on,” he says. “The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead — and move.”
“On the other hand,” he notes, the agenda on Capitol Hill is crowded. “What is also important to remember is that Congress has a lot of work to do right now.”
“We don’t have a budget that’s passed. We’re hearing that a certain faction of Republicans, in the House of Representatives in particular are arguing for government shutdown or even a default for the United States of America — losing- our financial credibility around the world — if they don’t get 100 percent of what they want.”
“And I think it’s very important for us to understand the urgency that we need to see out of Congress to go ahead and keep this recovery going, put people back to work, make sure that we’re building the middle class and providing ladders for people who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class.”