Obama Desperate to Own Immigration Reform as His Legacy Issue
If there was any doubt that President Obama's is still perturbed that the congressional Group of Eight stole headlines the day before his immigration speech by releasing their bipartisan framework, look no further than the White House claim of credit today.
Obama's Las Vegas speech was a retread of his 2011 framework but intended to launch immigration reform as a legacy issue for the president at the start of his second term.
"Let me say it this way -- the primary reason that we are seeing immigration reform rise on the priority list is because of the president’s efforts to put it there," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Decatur, Ga., today.
"The president has been committed to immigration reform and fixing our broken immigration system for quite some time. It’s something that he’s campaigned on. It is something that was strongly supported by the American public. And it’s something that the President has been aggressively pushing since the opening days of his second term," Earnest added of the issue for which Obama took heat from Latino activists during Term No. 1.
Securing the border before providing a path to citizenship is the main sticking point between the Obama administration and the Senate agreement. President Obama’s plan has no such requirement.
And to ensure that he gets credit in the history books, Obama seems hellbent on fracturing the Group of Eight.
Last night, Obama summoned the Democrats who were part of the coalition -- Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) -- to the White House for a meeting attended also by Vice President Biden.
“The president thanked the Senators for their work to date and told them that while he was pleased with the progress, he expects the process to continue to move forward and stands ready to introduce his own legislation if Congress fails to act," said a readout of the meeting from the White House.
Today, Earnest even dismissively referred to the Senate coalition as the "so-called Gang of Eight."
"It’s the view of the president that border security should be part of fixing our broken immigration system. But the other thing that should be part of that is a clear path to citizenship. And that’s what we’re working on. You saw that the president convened a meeting yesterday with some of the Democratic senators who are involved in this effort. And that’s an indication that the president is engaged on this," Earnest continued.
"I should point out one other thing. The president has also been clear that this bipartisan effort needs to move promptly. Delays and bickering is not something the president will tolerate. We’re not going to let this get bogged down in the process. We need to move expeditiously to get this done."
One of the Republicans in the Group of Eight, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), said yesterday that the administration must accept the provision that the border first be secured.
“If we are going to pass bipartisan immigration reform this year, the Administration must accept the principle that security triggers must be met before anyone who is currently undocumented is allowed to apply for a green card," Rubio said. "This is a principle agreed to by the bipartisan group of senators I am working with and it is something that must be included in any legislative proposal if it is to be successful."