Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) is pressing ahead with efforts to forge a bipartisan deal on comprehensive immigration legislation and will launch a series of meetings with Republicans and Democrats targeted as potential co-sponsors.
Schumer is expected to meet this week with GOP Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), George LeMieux (Fla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) all of whom President Barack Obama reached out to last week on the issue in the hopes of finding Republican support for a compromise.
But despite support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama to take up the issue this year even if it means not tackling energy and climate change legislation many Democrats and nearly all Republicans appear dead set against the idea.
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) said he cant imagine they could come up with the votes to pass an immigration bill this year. When asked how much support leaders might be able to wring from moderate House Democrats, Altmire replied, I would think none.
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who for months has worked with Schumer on a comprehensive approach, threw cold water on the idea of moving legislation this year. Although Graham has not formally pulled out of negotiations with Schumer, he said the Senate should punt the issue until next year.
If you do it and you fail, who will be the next group to take it up? ... You could go a generation without taking it up because you get the hell beat out of you, Graham said, adding that, I think we should take it up next year in the new Congress.
With moderates such as Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) already on record saying they dont want to see the issue on the floor this year, Schumer and Reids only hope of moving legislation is to attract additional GOP backers.
But with Graham wavering and other GOP moderates like Brown giving the idea a cool reception that could prove impossible.
Even if Reid somehow is able to thread the needle in the Senate, there is a slim chance that House Democratic leaders would be able to sway enough wary members of their own caucus or fence-sitting Republicans to muster the necessary votes, particularly with the midterm elections drawing ever closer.
The opportunity wasnt there to start with, said one senior Democrat who supports reform but doesnt see any way to pass it, adding that all the tough votes people here have already taken makes the job even harder.
The immigration bill would cause much more blowback than even the energy bill did in many districts, the Democrat said, and Republicans have no political incentive to help out.
Immigration is an issue that deeply divides House Democrats, and even the chambers most vocal reform advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) acknowledged late last week that Democrats wont have the votes to go it alone on the issue, as they did on health care.
Gutierrez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, estimated that there were a little over 200 votes in the Democratic Caucus for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes a pathway to legalization for the undocumented, but added that he thought there were Republicans out there who are ready to come forward on this issue because they see the value of the issue both from a public policy perspective and from a political perspective of their party.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.