Shortly after John Boehner’s last-ditch effort to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling ended in a humiliating defeat on Tuesday, reports emerged that President Obama was already plotting out his next move, saying of the fiscal crisis, “Once that’s done, you know, the day after – I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform.” While Democrats appear to have the upper hand, that still seemed a bit presumptuous. Things ended on Tuesday night with sources reporting that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are finalizing a deal, but the nation is still careening toward default. The full transcript of Obama’s interview reveals that he actually made the comments earlier in the day, and was bashing House Republicans for starting a “crisis that was unnecessary,” then throwing a “little bit of a wrench” in the Senate’s effort to get us out of it. But yes, Obama does sound anxious to start talking about immigration again.
Obama brought up immigration in an interview with KMEX, L.A.’s Univision affiliate, while rattling off a list of things Congress should be focusing on instead of engaging in childish brinksmanship, such as infrastructure, jobs, and raising the minimum wage. “We shouldn’t be inflicting damage on the economy simply because one side doesn’t get its way,” he said.
When asked about immigration reform specifically, Obama said it’s not “just a Latino issue,” but “an American issue.” He explained:
We know our economy will grow faster if immigration reform passes. We know businesses will do better if immigration reform passes. We know that deficits will be reduced if immigration reform passes; because people coming out of the shadows, paying more taxes growing, the growth accelerating, all that brings down the deficit, so it’s important for everybody.
Some advocates say passing immigration reform may actually be easier in the wake of the shutdown. “It’s at least possible with sinking poll numbers for the Republicans, with a [GOP] brand that is badly damaged as the party that can’t govern responsibly and is reckless that they’re going to say, ‘Alright, what can we do that will be in our political interest and also do tough things?’” Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform group America’s Voice, told BuzzFeed.
The Senate did pass a bipartisan immigration overhaul in June, and Obama made sure to point out why it isn’t moving forward. “The only thing right now that’s holding it back is again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the House of Representatives,” he said. Boehner has said it wouldn’t pass in the House, but he might be willing to try a piecemeal approach. It’s probably an argument best left for another time, as we’re also approaching this week’s ceiling on blaming things on Boehner.