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A prominent Senate Democrat asked Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to put off her state’s controversial immigration law to give Congress a chance to act. Scant time passed before Brewer’s answer came back: No.
The request by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York was a long shot for getting a stalled Senate immigration initiative moving again. Even the White House thinks the Senate proposal is nearly dead. “There’s not enough support to move forward,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
Still, among Democrats, there’s plenty of support for trying — at least in public — to advance immigration reform during this year of midterm elections. The party’s control of Congress depends in part on Hispanics, a key constituency, voting Democratic.
Hence, at a Cinco de Mayo celebration Wednesday at the White House, President Barack Obama said he wanted to start work on immigration legislation this year. Days earlier, he had said there was no appetite in Congress for another big legislative fight.
Schumer set out an unlikely path to passage for the troubled immigration plan in his letter to Brewer on Thursday. Delay for a year the date the Arizona law takes effect, he proposed, and push one of Arizona’s two Republican senators to support the Democrats’ outline for an overhaul of immigration law.
The delay would give Congress a chance to pass a comprehensive federal law that would toughen borders and forge a path to citizenship for millions here illegally, Schumer argued, an outcome he contended would be more effective than the state law.
Even if Brewer had agreed to call the legislature back into special session to make the delay official, it was highly unlikely that either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Jon Kyl would have changed their minds and supported the Democrats’ proposal.
Schumer’s short-lived idea was the Democrats’ latest effort to look like they’re not abandoning immigration reform in the face of Arizona’s crackdown on those in the state illegally. It’s true that no Republican senator is openly supporting the stalled effort, but it’s not clear that all of the Democrats are behind it, either.
The outcome of fall elections could determine whether Congress takes up immigration next year. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an original sponsor who has backed away from the immigration bill, has said it could be done in 2012, when Obama is up for re-election.
Hispanic voters have long been frustrated that Obama’s campaign promise to pass immigration reform has not been kept. Some members of the House Hispanic Caucus agreed to vote for his health care overhaul on the understanding that he would push immigration reform through this year.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, struggling with a tough re-election bid in heavily Hispanic Nevada, considered bringing it to the floor of the Senate ahead of energy and climate change legislation.
Even after Obama told reporters Congress lacked the appetite for a bill this year, Senate Democrats unveiled an immigration outline — not a bill — the next day.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.