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Chuck Schumer Calls The GOP's Immigration Reform Bluff

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House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office quickly shot down the idea.

"The suggestion is entirely impractical, since it would totally eliminate the President's incentive to enforce immigration law for the remainder of his term," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told TPM in an email.

Schumer's proposal is a significant compromise for Democrats, who shepherded a bipartisan immigration bill through the Senate last summer which immediately offers provisional legal status to unauthorized immigrants (before putting them on a 13-year path to citizenship). He's now offering to push that date back to 2017. That won't sit well with the pro-reform community. But it suggests that Democrats are eager to strike a deal and move the ball forward, even if it means accepting a scaled back version of the bill they prefer.

Schumer's offer calls bluff on Boehner recent comments that it's "going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation" because it's unclear Obama "can be trusted to enforce our laws."

"It's a sincere effort to break through the current impasse," said a Democratic Senate leadership aide. "If that's the only impediment to getting this done, then taking it away should pave the way for reform."

The more salient reason for his hesitation to advance reform is that many conservatives strongly oppose it on the substance. Many House Republicans also fear that it'll harm the party in the congressional elections this November by depressing turnout among their voter base. On the other hand, inaction stands to harm the GOP in upcoming presidential elections by costing them Hispanic voters. Given the political consequences, Republican leaders are reticent to oppose reform on the merits.

Schumer echoed fears of pro-immigration advocates that if reform fails now, it may be deferred until after 2016 given the proximity to the presidential election. The Democrats' No. 3 senator and guru on messaging and policy, Schumer was a leading author of the Senate immigration bill.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.