Chamber of Commerce predicts immigration reform bill has only 50-50 chance of becoming law

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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There’s a fifty-fifty chance of a good immigration bill being signed by President Barack Obama, predicted Randy Johnson, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

However, the House likely won’t grapple with the issue until October or November, he said.

That’s yet another delay, because advocates had hoped to get a bill through the House before the August recess, or in September.

The House’s time will be consumed in September by fights over the budget, the debt-ceiling and Obamacare, Johnson said.

“The indication is that the [GOP leadership in] Congress feels fairly optimistic about a number of bills going forward and reaching the House floor… and matched up in in conference” with the Senate bill, Johnson said Thursday.

The current delays won’t stop a bill from being passed in 2014, an election year, Johnson said. “The politics of this are pretty clear right now… There’s still time to get this done,” he said.

The House could deal with the issue by the “end of October, early November, [when] they’re in town more, I think that’s what we’re picking up on the Hill,” he told reporters at a press conference prior to Labor Day.  That could lead to a joint bill emerging in January from negotiations between House and Senate leaders, he said.

That judgement is based on recent conversations with GOP budget chief Rep. Paul Ryan, and on outreach to GOP legisaltors by 50 chamber advocates, he said. In the House, Ryan is one of the primary advocates for the immigration rewrite.

“This is my third time around on this [immigration] issue… and having frankly worked on the Hill for 10 years, I think the Republican Party wants to find a way to get this behind them because … [because the immigration deal] is a good thing to do politically,” Johnson said.

Other GOP leaders, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, say the GOP will get more ballot-box support by defeating the bill and allowing wages to rise.

Many Republican [legislators] would be “quite happy to see this legislation put off… [and] if they don’t pass something by October, it is hard to see passing” before the 2014 election, said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Obama won’t enforce his side of any immigration deal, so “it is legislative malfeasance to try to pass a law you know the president won’t respect,” he said.  Also, the GOP’s base wants legislators to roll back Obamacare, not pass an amnesty bill that will boost the Democrats’ electorate, he said.

Republicans would gain by postponing work on an unpopular immigration bill until they’ve got majorities in the Senate and hold the White House after 2016, Stein said.

A good bill, Johnson said, “would have something in the four areas — obviously border security, something on temporary workers, and of course, something on legalization and mandatory EV,” or employment verification of job-candidates’ legal right to work, he said.

The chamber’s top priority are new rules to increase the inflow of immigrants and guest-workers.

The Senate bill would double immigrant rates and ensure the arrival of roughly 46 million people by 2033. The bill would also double the pool of guest-workers in the country to roughly 2 million. The extra inflow would nudge down wages and increase investors’ share of national income, according to a July report by the Congressional Budget Office.

The increased inflow, and the proposed staged amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants, are very unpopular among the GOP base and the swing-voters.

Democrats want to win citizenship and voting rights for the new wave of immigrants, likely adding tens of millions of new Democrats by 2030. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s top aide, predicted on Tuesday that an immigration rewrite and the Obamacare bill would be the administration’s primary accomplishments.

The bill’s details could delay the award of citizenship to the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, Johnson predicted.

“That could be a long process to get to citizenship,” he said.

Only a few GOP members oppose any deal that would allow the illegals to stay in the country, Johnson said. The “don’t want a second class tier of people who are seen as worker and not part of the American fabric… There are lots of ideas on the table that they’re looking at.”

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