Republican leaders ducked and dodged this weekend to avoid answering questions about their plans for a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws, but their comments indicated a determination to move ahead with President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority.
The leaders’ evasions were jeered by conservatives.
The federal government’s insincere promises of proper enforcement “has been going on so long that even the least savvy base voters… aren’t being fooled by this,” said D.A. King, an immigration reformer based in Atlanta, Ga.
The evasions show that “they’re putting on a face with the public until the timing is right,” perhaps after the Spring primaries, said King, who wants to reduce the current immigration inflow of 1 million people per year. “The Republican establishment is clearly saying to voters ‘drop dead.’”
“Who knows if these people are playing a game — it’s very difficult to pin them down,” said Dave Gorak, a former Chicago journalist who now runs the Wisconsin-based Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration. “You’re dealing with people who do not rely on logic and common sense — it’s a scary time, there’s doubt about it.”
CBS White House reporter Major Garrett asked GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Sunday if the GOP plan would allow the 12 million illegal immigrants to get citizenship.
Cantor changed the subject.
“There’s a lot of focus on the immigration issue, but you know in reality, we not only want to help the situation there, a lot of the discussion that we had with our members at the retreat was that we want to help the problems right now: job growth and the lack of the job growth,” said Cantor, who is the second-ranking GOP leader.
Garrett also asked Cantor if the GOP leaders, including Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, want a so-called “trigger” that would delay benefits for illegals until new security measures are working and approved by the courts.
“Well, no one is satisfied with the use of that term,” Cantor said as he evaded the question. Goodlatte did not appear on the TV shows, even though his Judiciary committee will write the planned legislation.
On ABC, Rep. Paul Ryan, a leading advocate for an immigration rewrite, shrugged off criticism from GOP allies who say his push for an immigration increase will divide and damage the party before the 2014 election.
The rewrite is needed because “we don’t know who’s coming and going in this country… [and] we don’t trust the president to enforce the [current] law,” said Ryan, who has repeatedly called for additional low-wage guest-workers.
Ryan downplayed the prospect of a deal by highlighting its unpopularity. “We’re still having a debate in our caucus,” he said.
Both legislators also tried to steer the focus away from the immigration rewrite, which is Obama’s top legislative priority.
“We have an increasingly lawless presidency where he is actually doing the job of Congress, writing new policies and new laws without going through Congress,” Ryan said at the start of his interview, which came three days after he and House Speaker John Boehner unveiled their immigration plan.