Politics – The Art of the Possible29 Dec 2009
The Gutierrez bill calls for Comprehensive Immigration Reform ASAP (as soon as possible). But given the absence of a corresponding Senate measure, at least at this writing, the very possibility of immigration reform passing both houses in 2010 remains an open question. This is especially true in light of recent reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised House members that they will not have to take the lead on controversial measures in the coming election year. (See Speaker Pelosi to Shield Vulnerable Members from Controversial Votes,” by Jared Allen, The Hill, December 16, 2009.)
While it is understandable that Speaker Pelosi would like to protect her most vulnerable members in what is expected to be a bruising political season – forcing them to take difficult stands only when absolutely necessary – it cedes the legislative initiative to the U.S. Senate. To give credit where due, the U.S. Senate is one of the greatest deliberative bodies in the world; but speed is not its strong suit. According to The Hill, the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Speaker has promised House members that “the Senate would go first on an immigration bill.” The article notes that, although President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have promised to seek immigration reform next year, it is not clear whether the Senate will be able to come together on a reform measure that can achieve broad support. The Senate’s leading advocate for immigration reform, Senator Charles Schumer, has yet to release his own bill in the Senate, The Hill reports. This should come as no surprise, given the high operatic tension that has gripped the Senate during the past few weeks of the health care reform debate. Until the final act of the health care drama, it seems unlikely that other legislative proposals will get much attention. Come January, however, let us hope that Senator Schumer and his colleagues will emerge from their brief holiday recess tanned, rested, and ready, with a Senate version of CIR-ASAP in hand!