Obama runs immigration bill from White House, according to new report

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

The White House is playing a larger role in developing the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill than its supporters publicly admit, according to a forthcoming article in The New Yorker.

“‘No decisions are being made without talking to us about it,’ the official said of the Gang of Eight negotiations … ‘This does not fly if we’re not O.K. with it,’” a senior Obama official told author Ryan Lizza for the pending article.

White House officials also believe the emerging bill will be a huge success for President Barack Obama.

“If a Gang of Eight-style bill is signed into law by the President, it will probably be one of the top five legislative accomplishments in the last twenty years,” the official said. “It’s a huge piece of business.”

The report points out other evidence of close White House involvement.

For example, Obama met with four top Democrats pushing the bill on Thursday, and a White House spokesman said earlier that White House lawyers are participating in the drafting of the bill.

But Obama and White House officials have kept a low profile to avoid deterring GOP cooperation.

However, they expect to seize the credit from Latinos once a bill is signed, the New Yorker article said. “We’re not worried about short-term political credit. We’ll get plenty of it if it gets signed,” the official told The New Yorker.

The Senate continues debate on the bill this week.

The New Yorker article also highlights unflattering statements and infighting among the GOP side of the Gang of Eight Senators, including Sen. John McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham,  Sen. Marco Rubio and Florida’s former Republican governor, Jeb Bush.

During a debate over guest-worker rules, “Rubio sided with the Chamber against the construction workers,” according to the article.

“There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,” a Rubio aide told Lizza. ‘“There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly,” said the aide.

McCain also complained to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the leading Democrat in the gang, about Rubio’s tactics to win support from other GOP.

“Schumer often found himself mediating disputes between Rubio and McCain, who felt that Rubio’s public statements sometimes positioned him positively with [GOP] conservatives at the expense of the Gang,” said the article. “McCain would call Schumer and fume, ‘Look what Rubio’s doing!’”

An aide to Rubio dismised the New Yorker article, but did not deny the quotes.

“Sen. Rubio declined to participate in the piece, and our office strongly objected to the magazine using the background quotes like they did because they misrepresented the Senator’s position,” the aide told Politico.

The 1,077-page bill is expected to provide amnesty to at least 11 million illegal immigrants, bring in another 20 million people over the next decade, accelerate the future inflow of immigrants’ relatives, increase the supply of agricultural laborers and boost the annual inflow of blue-collar and professional guest-workers above 1 million.

Since July 2008, the number of Americans with jobs has dropped by 3 million to 144 million, while the working-age population has climbed 9 million to 245 million, including roughly 4 million working-age immigrants. Roughly 20 million Americans lack full-time jobs.

The total cost to taxpayers is unclear. The amnesty of roughly 11 million low-skill workers is expected to spur benefit spending by $9.3 trillion over 50 years, but advocates say the bill’s various costs will be offset by economic gains.

Follow Neil on Twitter