Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid believes his chamber’s sweeping immigration overhaul has the votes to pass the House. Too bad he’s not the Speaker.
After Reid helped negotiate a plan to end the government shutdown, he and other Democrats turned their eyes to immigration reform as Congress’ next priority. But the issue has languished in the House, where Republicans who control the chamber overwhelmingly oppose the bipartisan immigration bill Reid helped pass.
The top Senate Democrat thinks that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could end the impasse if he so chooses, using Democratic votes. Boehner has repeatedly said he would not bring an immigration bill to the floor without a majority of Republicans backing it.
“I hope this breaks that,” Reid told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, referring to the shutdown. “I think an issue that comes up like immigration. If immigration were brought to the floor tomorrow it would pass overwhelming in the House of Representatives, overwhelmingly. The American people want it, it would reduce the debt by a trillion dollars. It’s long overdue.”
Democrats are upping pressure on Boehner and Republicans to act on immigration reform. President Obama has said he wants a bill on his desk before the start of 2014, an election year.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get it done this year,” Reid said.
Reid, however, said he would not compromise on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in a rush to make a deal with the House. Some Republicans in the House favor offering legal status, but not a chance to earn full citizenship, to immigrants who are not authorized to live in the U.S.
The government shutdown is partly responsible for stalling immigration reform in the House. And Reid heaped scorn on one of the architects of the shutdown strategy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), accusing him of political opportunism.
“In an effort to help him run for president, he has done some stuff that’s really damaging to our country,” Reid said. “And who has he hurt? He’s been attempting to raise money. And who has he hurt? He has hurt average Americans.”
Reid predicted political calamity for the GOP if Cruz or his allies engineer another shutdown next January, when government funding runs out.
“The American people will not put up with that,” the Nevada senator said. “And if this happens again, I don’t think it will, but if it does, I think the House of Representatives will go Democratic.”
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.