"Let's pass immigration reform today. Make it take effect in 2017. Republicans don't trust President Obama," Reid said. "Let's give them a chance to approve the bill under President Rand Paul or President Theodore Cruz. To be clear, delaying implementation of immigration reform is not my preference. But I feel so strongly that this bill needs to get done, I'm willing to show flexibility." House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has repeatedly said that most Republicans want to act on immigration but don't trust the president to enforce the law — a view he repeated again Thursday.
Reid warned that if Republicans don't take the offer and pass a bill by August, President Barack Obama would go as far as he could to act on his own.
"If they don't take our offer, then we're going to have to go to the second step, which is not my preference," Reid said. "Administrative rules cannot trump legislation but we're going to have to do what we have to do as we proved with DACA," he said, referring to Obama's program to grant deportation relief and work permits to young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
Reid's offer of a 2017 effective date mirrors a suggestion that had been made by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
In the press conference with Reid, Schumer, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., Schumer suggested there was a six-week window for action after Republican primaries on June 10 and before the August break.
Schumer was asked about Republican response to 2017 compromise after the press conference and he said, "We haven't gotten yes and we haven't gotten a no."
Schumer also put the kibosh on smaller immigration changes, like the ENLIST Act that would allow young illegal immigrants to get legal status by signing up for the military.
"We are not going to go along with minor fixes that fail to address the huge systematic problems in our immigration system today," Schumer said. "If the oil is leaking in your car, your muffler has a hole in it and you have a flat tire, you don't change the windshield wipers. But that's what they want to do with this ENLIST Act. Republicans are barely even considering that but it doesn't even scratch the surface of our immigration system. We support giving those that serve in the military the opportunity to earn citizenship, but we also want to fix our agriculture worker programs, secure our borders ... and provide a pathway for the 11 million that live in the shadows."
The senators’ threats come as House Republicans continued Thursday to demand a public display of trust-building from the president before they take up any changes to the immigration system.
Any executive actions from the administration are sure to only exacerbate those stated tensions and weaken the already slight chances that the House moves on any immigration bill this year.
Boehner, R-Ohio, was pressed on the issue repeatedly in a tense exchange with Univision and Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos at a press conference. Ramos asked why, roughly a year after the Senate passed sweeping immigration changes, Boehner is “blocking immigration reform.”
“Me? Blocking?” Boehner replied sarcastically.
Boehner went on to explain that he has been calling for reform for more than a year, but that the Senate’s bill is unacceptable He pointed to long-held frustrations with the administration dating back to Obama's delays on his health care law as reason why the House will not move its own bills.
“I think that moving in a piece-by-piece fashion on this in a common-sense way is the way to do it,” he said. “But the president has responsibility here as well, and when he continues to ignore Obamacare — his own law, 38 unilateral delays — he reduces the confidence of the American people in his willingness to implement an immigration law the way we would pass it. So the president has to rebuild this trust if we’re going to be able to do this.”
Later, in a colloquy on the House floor, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland attempted to pick apart Republicans’ logic, noting that if they do not trust the president then why pass any laws at all — for instance the national defense authorization that easily passed the House on Thursday.
“If the issue is simply trusting the president, let's shut down,” Hoyer said. “Let's not do anything. Let's not pass any new laws. That's not what the American people expect but that seems to be the premise. Now presuming we pass the defense authorization act as we expect the president to pass it, but if we don't trust him, why pass the bill? That's not an excuse. That's not a reason. In fact, it's a derogation of our responsibility.”
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., however, responded that the House would move forward on incremental steps were it not for the president’s insistence on a comprehensive bill.
“I've expressed that myself to the president, and if we could see our way toward discreet, incremental steps, toward strengthening law enforcement at the border, toward doing things like the green card on the diploma or the ENLIST act without the introduction of the insistence of a comprehensive attempt, then I believe we may be able to make progress. But to this day, it has been my way or the highway, all of nothing. That is not going to work,” he said.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.