Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle feel the time for an immigration overhaul is now. What form that legislation takes is up for discussion. From left: Sens. Schumer, Durbin, Rubio and Menendez at the news conference Monday.
An immigration overhaul appears to be the one item on President Barack Obama’s second-term agenda moving on the fast track — with a bipartisan framework in the Senate, leaders in both parties on board and inexorable electoral math at its back.
Of course, the story is a familiar one. A second-term president making immigration a priority. A bipartisan framework. And failure.
This time, the senators hope it’ll be different.
For Sen. John McCain, the answer is simple: “Elections, elections,” the Arizona Republican said.
“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic voters,” he said at Monday’s bipartisan news conference. McCain even acknowledged that the new framework they announced is not much different from legislation the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., drew up years ago — and watched go down in defeat.
“We cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows,” McCain said.
The bipartisan group appeared as hopeful as any before it that a deal finally might get across the finish line this year — and the White House is hoping to seize the momentum, with a speech on immigration planned Tuesday in Nevada and a full-court press from allied unions, the business community and immigrant advocates.
But no push will be more powerful than the cold, hard stats of the Latino demographic wave — and the sweeping Electoral College victory Latinos helped deliver to the president.
“In the battleground state of Colorado, when President Obama got 85 percent of the Hispanic vote, it did not go unnoticed by the Republicans,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said.
Durbin said the election showed Hispanics have become a political force, just as other groups did before them.
“In the flow of American history, this happens over and over again,” he said. “When emerging groups become a political force, they are given respect and recognition under the law, and they become part of the power establishment of America. ... And this is the moment for the Hispanic population.”
The White House took credit for the new framework. But it stopped short of embracing every element, including its key compromise — tying improved border enforcement to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Press Secretary Jay Carney said the border has never been more secure than it has been under Obama, and he lauded the bipartisan deal as one that dovetails with the president’s own immigration principles detailed in 2011.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.