Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is moving full steam ahead with a politically tenuous strategy to pass comprehensive immigration reform this summer with or without Republicans in an effort to inspire Latino voters ahead of the midterm elections.
Reid caught many colleagues and activists off guard with his forceful stance on the need for reform this year during a speech at an immigration rally last weekend in his home state, where Hispanic voters will play a crucial role in his sagging re-election campaign. Reid held 38 percent of the vote compared with 46 percent for former Nevada GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden, his leading challenger, according to the latest poll.
We are going to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Reid told the crowd of thousands Saturday. We need to do this this year. We cant let excuses like a Supreme Court nomination get in the way.
Reid promised his constituents that legislation would include provisions to secure the nations borders, a guest-worker program and a path to legalization for immigrants who are already in the country illegally. There are no excuses. This is something America needs, he said. Were going to do immigration reform just like we did health care reform.
Senate Democratic aides close to the issue said Reid is planning to try to get a bill to the floor as early as June. In the meantime, Reid will be pressing Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who have been fleshing out bipartisan aspects of the issue over the past year to translate their blueprint for reform into a bill.
Reid is pretty serious about this, one aide said. Weve got all of June and most of July to get this done, and then September, but thats less realistic.
Senate Democratic leaders will have to overcome some major political and logistical obstacles if they are intent on passing reform, as opposed to trumping up the issue for election-year politics.
For starters, Reid will have to carve out time for the debate since a summer push on immigration reform will coincide with the grueling process of replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. In addition, the Schumer-Graham blueprint lacks support from practically all Republicans and a handful of moderate Democrats.
Even Senate Republican leaders who backed the last major push for immigration reform in 2007 have signaled that they have no interest in touching the issue this year.
The conditions for immigration reform no longer exist. The consensus that existed before does not exist. And, among other reasons, because ... this current administration has not done whats necessary to secure the border and enforce the law, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Sunday on ABCs This Week.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who, like Reid, stumped for immigration reform in his home state over the weekend, speculated Monday that some Republicans would get on board after they saw that Democratic leaders were serious about moving forward this year.
We need help from the other side of the aisle, Durbin said during a conference call. If they think this is coming, we might be able to win over some Republican support.