President Obama late Friday said he remained hopeful that Congress would overhaul the immigration system before the end of the year, and offered a stern warning to those Republicans who oppose reform.
The president’s remarks came at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) at a private residence in Miami, Fla. It’s a critical time for immigration reform, which has seen its momentum stall since the Senate passed a comprehensive bipartisan bill in June.
Obama on Friday bemoaned what he said was the hyper-partisanship that has torpedoed reform efforts. He pointed to a long history of Republicans and Democrats coming together on immigration reform, including under his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.
“We've been talking about immigration reform for decades now,” Obama said. “Almost a decade ago, my predecessor, George W. Bush, said that comprehensive immigration reform that would strengthen our borders, improve our legal immigration system and do something about those who are here on an undocumented basis, that that would be good for the economy. And it was embraced by a large number of Republicans as well as Democrats.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not take up the Senate-passed bill, but would be open to bringing piecemeal incremental legislation to the floor for a vote. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the key members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration reform team, has said the two disparate approaches should not be merged.
One of the Gang of Eight’s members, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), the chairman of the DSCC, was in attendance on Friday night.
“We have seen the Senate most recently - Michael Bennet was part of a group, bipartisan group that helped to pass a comprehensive bill that we know would add over a trillion dollars of economic growth to our country, would reduce our deficit by $800 million, is supported by law enforcement, clergy, business, immigration rights activists,” Obama said.
“And right now, it's being held up,” he continued. “It's being held up not because it's not a good idea. The majority of the American people support it. It's being held up because there's a small faction in the other party that has decided we don't want to do anything and our main goal is obstruction.”
The president invited Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another GOP member of the Gang of Eight, to the White House on Thursday to plot a way forward. Obama has said he’d be open to signing any piece of immigration reform legislation that Congress can pass, as long as it contains a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally.
“And, by the way, if the Republicans decided to pass it - and nobody would be happier than me - even though it would be to their political advantage to do it, because ultimately I've run my last election,” Obama said. “And along with the gray hair, what comes with being President is that you take the long view and you start thinking about 10 years from now or 20 years from now or 30 years from now.”