Top Dem: Congress could still tackle immigration this year

There's still a chance that Democrats could move immigration legislation this year, a House Democratic leader said Tuesday.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said that while Republican opposition had made it difficult, immigration reform was still possible.

"I think there is," Becerra said when asked if there was still a chance Democrats could move immigration reform.

"It's very tough; it's a very small window," he said during an appearance on the liberal Bill Press radio show. "It's like pulling an inside straight, and the time works against you."

Immigration has stalled this Congress alongside a number of other top Democratic priorities, like energy and climate legislation, an extension of unemployment benefits and campaign finance reform. The protracted gridlock in the Senate, where Republicans can use procedure to hold up legislation, has led to a number of House-passed bills being pushed aside in the Senate.

Becerra asserted that Republican attacks on immigration reform, and pivots by some GOP senators to oppose comprehensive reform, made it more difficult for House leaders to convince rank-and-file members to cast votes on difficult legislation that would die in the upper chamber anyway.

The top-ranking Hispanic in the House did say, though, that he believed Arizona's controversial immigration law, which the Obama administration is challenging in court, gave lawmakers a "better chance" of dealing with immigration this year by highlighting the salience of the problem.

President Barack Obama will meet with the Senate's top Democrats on Tuesday morning to discuss the remaining priorities that require action before next month's congressional recess.