Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the Senate “gang of eight” that helped broker the passage of an immigration bill in the chamber last summer, floated an unusual compromise solution on Sunday in an attempt to break an impasse between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.
On “Meet the Press,” Schumer tried to call Republicans’ bluff on the issue. His suggestion: Pass a bill now, but don’t implement it until 2017. This came in response to House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans, who said last week that they cannot entrust President Barack Obama with enforcing the law.
“Let’s enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start until 2017, after President Obama’s term is over,” Schumer said. “I think the rap against him that he actually won’t enforce the law is false. He’s deported more people than any other president. But you could actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it.”
It’s more of a “rhetorical play” than a serious proposal, a Senate Democratic leadership aide told Business Insider — a way for Schumer to try to force the issue this year, signal that Democrats don’t want to wait, and take a jab at Boehner’s comments last week.
Boehner’s office and other conservative advocates on the issue quickly pushed back against the idea. Their arguments: The passage of a bill with a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws would give Obama little incentive to enforce the ones currently on the books.
“The suggestion is entirely impractical, since it would totally eliminate the President’s incentive to enforce immigration law for the remainder of his term,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.
It’s also unclear if the suggestion would do anything to assuage concerns from the right on the issue as it’s being debated in Congress right now. Many conservatives oppose the idea of immigration reform, and other Republicans don’t want to address the issue until at least after the primary elections. Boehner heard an earful from conservatives after Republicans released their set of immigration principles late last month.
Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, one of the loudest voices against passage of the Senate bill, told Business Insider that Schumer’s idea would be a “non-starter.”
“You cannot get good policy through this Senate or signed by this administration. It also invokes memories of Obamacare’s delayed implementation,” Holler said.
Schumer also implicitly suggested that Democrats would be willing to wait until 2017 to enforce legislation. As one Republican aide put it, why would Republicans act now if there’s no urgency to do so? Republicans stand a decent chance of taking back the Senate later this year, and could potentially address the issue on their terms if a Republican wins the White House in 2016.
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