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Obama predicts immigration reform no later than 2017

Feb. 14, 2014 at 3:56 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Congress will pass U.S. immigration reform legislation before 2017, President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Friday.

Speaking with Univision Radio, the president said House Republicans have "refused so far to act," and urged listeners to put pressure on Congress to enact reform.

"I believe it will get done before my presidency is over," he said. "I'd like to get it done this year."

"And I think sending a strong message to them that this is the right thing to do, it's important to do, it's the fair thing to do, and it will actually improve the economy and give people a chance," Obama said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday a procedural maneuver to circumvent the House Republican majority could revive stalled efforts on immigration.

He told the New York Times he was considering a legislative tactic known as a discharge petition to bring sweeping immigration legislation out of committee to the floor for consideration. The tactic, which has succeeded only twice since 1985, is done by bringing the measure directly to the House floor, bypassing the regular committee process, and usually without the cooperation of House leadership.

A successful petition "discharges" the committee from further consideration of a bill and brings it directly to the floor.

The petition would require the support of an absolute majority of House members, meaning if all Democrats supported the measure, it would still need more than a dozen Republican signatures, the Times said.

Schumer, one of the architects of a comprehensive immigration reform measure that passed the Senate in June, told the newspaper GOP House members were trying to "sweep this issue under the rug."

"In the next few months you're going to see increased pressure, and the discharge petition is one such way," he said.

Some Democratic lawmakers said the scheme would, at best, simply keep alive an election-year issue GOP lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party movement strongly oppose.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Times Schumer's "scheme has zero chance of success."

"A clear majority in the House understands that the massive Senate-passed bill is deeply flawed," Steel said. "That's why we will continue to work on step-by-step, common-sense reform."

The Senate bill included a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country without legal permission.

House Republicans largely reject the measure as "amnesty." They have called for a piecemeal approach, with smaller bills.

Boehner, who tried to advance immigration reform at a recent GOP retreat, told reporters Feb. 6 the idea was all but dead this year.

His comments came two days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who faces a primary challenge, predicted the immigration push would stall, saying the dissimilar approaches between the House and Senate presented "sort of an irresolvable conflict."

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Feb. 2 comprehensive immigration reform was "clearly in doubt" this year.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told Roll Call Feb. 4 Boehner should lose his speakership if he pursues the bill, which could be seen as giving Obama a legislative victory in a midterm election year.

"Discharge petitions are difficult, but when they work, it's because there's a clear majority of the body that supports a specific proposal, and in this case, that is true," Schumer told the Times. "But I have no illusions that this will be easy in any way."

Some Democratic lawmakers told the newspaper even if the maneuver fails, it would pressure Boehner and other Republicans to act on some form of immigration overhaul this year -- and could help Democrats looking toward the 2016 presidential elections.

The White House declined to comment on Schumer's proposal.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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