White House spokesman Jay Carney today endorsed House Republicans’ strategy to pass a piece-by-piece rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws.
“The outcome has to be comprehensive immigration reform,” Carney told reporters. “How we get from here to there in the House is an open question,” he said, reversing prior demands for House passage of a single large, or comprehensive, rewrite.
President Obama and his aides have repeatedly urged passage of a final bill that would boost immigration levels and provide citizenship to at least 11 million illegal immigrants, who prior demographic trends indicate would lean toward voting for Democrats.
“The legislative analysis we’ll leave to congressional reporters, but the fact of the matter is that it is our hope and expectation that comprehensive immigration reform will emerge from Congress that the president can sign,” Carney, a former Time magazine employee who has been speaking for Obama since 2011, added.
Carney’s statement fueled suspicions by conservatives and immigration-reform advocates that GOP leaders are colluding with White House leaders, progressives and business groups to draft a major bill during a closed-door conference of Senate and House legislators in September and October.
To begin the joint conference, however, top House leaders, including House Speaker Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, have to pass at least one minor or major immigration bill through the House.
Boehner and the other top leaders have repeatedly hinted they want to follow that course.
“We have been listening to the American people,” GOP budget chief Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told CBS early this week. “So what we’re going to do is take a step-by-step approach to get immigration right, not a big massive bill but separate bills so people know what’s in these bills,” he said. (Related: $200,000 ad campaign hits Ryan’s immigration plan)
It is not clear how much of the Democrat-led Senate bill would be acceptable to GOP leaders during a joint conference.
Since July, most GOP leaders — including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz —have minimized their comments about the unpopular immigration rewrite, and have instead urged the GOP base to rally during the August recess against further spending on the established 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Other Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, say GOP members should rally to prevent a post-recess immigration push by their own party’s leadership.
Conservative immigration reform advocates, such as tea party groups, NumbersUSA and Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, are urging their supporters to use the August recess to pressure GOP leaders.
“The US House leadership is engaged in heavy trickery to get amnesty into law… [it is] time for members of Congress to feel the heat on the ground in their districts!” says the ALIPAC website.
Progressive groups are also using the recess to pressure GOP politicians to accept the Democrats’ immigration push, which would provide Democrats with millions of new voters from 2020 onwards.
Carney’s statement follows a statement Wednesday by Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chief architect of the Senate’s immigration rewrite, which would double the immigration rate to allow in 46 million people by 2033.
“We would much prefer a big comprehensive bill, but any way the House can get there is OK by us, the New York Democrat told a CNN interviewer.
House leaders “are doing it in pieces… if we can get together at the end of the day and compromise, that will be a good thing,” Schumer said.
The Senate bill would also increase the inflow of guest-workers, providing employers with almost one million blue-collar and professional guest-workers each year, and shifting more of the nation’s annual income from wage-earners to investors. (Related: CBO says immigration bill aids investors, not wage earners)