Updated: 6:19 p.m.
Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with plans to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year — even if it means punting on energy legislation until next Congress.
According to Senate Democratic aides, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed during a Tuesday afternoon meeting that a "moral imperative" exists to move immigration reform in 2010. The decision to press ahead on such a controversial issue now — in an election year — comes even though Democrats have had little success attracting GOP support for their initiatives in the 111th Congress. Hispanic Members have been ramping up the pressure on President Barack Obama to force the issue with Congress.
During the meeting, Reid "reiterated his intention to move forward" this year on immigration reform, one aide said, adding that Pelosi agreed it is a top priority, even beyond energy legislation.
"The Speaker did agree that if faced with a choice between energy and immigration, she'd go with immigration," the aide said.
However, a House Democratic aide insisted that Pelosi's comments were aimed only at the timing of the two issues, and that she meant that immigration could advance before energy reform.
Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi, declined to comment specifically on what the Speaker and Reid discussed in Tuesday's meeting, but said that Pelosi remains committed to addressing immigration.
"The Speaker supports bipartisan immigration reform that secures our borders and keeps our nation safe, protects our workers and our economy, unites families, and provides a pathway to legalization, and the House awaits Senate action," Elshami said.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley declined to comment.
According to a House aide, immigration reform came up as part of a broader discussion between Reid and Pelosi over the Congressional agenda for the rest of the year.
At the same time, the White House appears to be stepping up its outreach on the issue, which many Democrats believe could prove key to Reid's re-election prospects in the Latino-rich state of Nevada this fall. Obama called a number of GOP Senators on Tuesday — including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), George LeMieux (Fla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) — to discuss the issue.
But even as Democrats refocus their attention on immigration reform, key bipartisan talks between Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on a bipartisan bill appear to be flat-lining.
Graham said Wednesday that while he remains committed to comprehensive reform, he is increasingly convinced that it would be impossible to pass legislation this year. Graham said the stakes are too high to try and fail.
"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" when lawmakers may have a better chance of putting together a bipartisan agreement.