WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former President George W. Bush believes the latest immigration reform legislation has a chance to get through Congress.
Speaking to ABC News, Bush says that it’s time for Congress to fix a “broken” immigration system.
“It’s a very difficult bill to pass because there’s a lot of moving parts,” Bush said.” “But it looks like they’re making some progress.”
Bush added that the bill has a “chance to pass.”
Bush tried, and failed, to pass comprehensive immigration reform during his presidency, facing opposition from his own Republican base.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who controls the agenda in the Republican-led House, has said flatly that lawmakers will not consider the bipartisan, Senate-passed bill with the promise of U.S. citizenship for 11 million immigrants living here unlawfully and billions of dollars in new spending for more border security. That leaves Democrats with few options in their quest for the most sweeping immigration changes in a generation and a chance to deliver on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
The question of process and strategy is nettlesome for Democrats, but the single-issue bills pushed by Republicans represent the most expedient path to negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate and a chance for final, comprehensive legislation.
Publicly, Democrats are adamant.
“Piecemeal is no deal. Piecemeal is a deal-breaker,” said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.
But Democrats left the Capitol for their July 4th recess last week determined to rally support for immigration legislation and willing to support the single-issue bills as long as it gets them to talks with the Senate. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who spoke privately with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi late last month made clear they wouldn’t back the stand-alone GOP bills if Republicans expected the Senate to act on each one individually, a surefire path to legislative oblivion.
The Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to change or scuttle the individual bills from the House Judiciary Committee, none including a path to citizenship and several they’ve described as mean-spirited.
One provides for a crackdown on immigrants living in the United States illegally; another sets up a temporary program for farm workers to come to the United States but without the opportunity for citizenship that the Senate-passed measure includes.
A third, which drew several Democratic votes, requires establishing a mandatory program within two years for companies to verify the legal status of their workers. The Senate bill sets a four-year phase-in, although supporters of the legislation have also signaled they are agreeable to tighter requirements. A fourth House bill increases the number of visas for highly-skilled workers, also a feature of the Senate bill.
If Congress is unable to produce immigration legislation, Democrats are certain to blame the GOP and look to capitalize politically, not only with Hispanics but independent voters frustrated with the gridlock.
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