The president must be about to address a joint session of Congress. How do we know? The air is full of trial balloons, sent up by White House aides to judge the public reaction to some of the president’s more controversial proposals.
One such trial balloon may be shot down before it gets very high. Joe Biden wants to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system — something Democrats would dearly love and Republicans rightfully oppose.
Yes, there are some immigration issues where there is bipartisan support. Legalizing DREAMers is one such issue. A bill supported by 30 House Republicans that would allow farmworkers already in the country to earn legal status and ease restrictions on visas for seasonal agricultural workers has already passed.
But not even Democrats can agree on much else. A summation of the arguments is that Democrats want more and Republicans want less — or none.
Most Republicans are already skeptical, given Biden’s refusal to acknowledge a crisis at the border.
“What we really need is for [Biden] to admit that his policies and rhetoric caused the crisis. The results of this crisis are as predictable as they are disastrous — for both migrants and American citizens,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor last week.
“These priorities are almost a parody of left-wing governance,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week. “Not securing the border. Not a better plan for these children. Just ‘woke’ proofreading. This is not going to get the job done.”
Even without the political fallout from the administration’s handling of a surge of Central American migrants at the border, a comprehensive immigration bill would be difficult to get through Congress given the need to secure at least 10 Senate Republican votes for its passage.
Given this political reality, according to the official, Biden will also use his address to a joint session of Congress to push for more targeted legislation that would guarantee a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as “dreamers,” allow farmworkers already in the country to earn legal status and ease restrictions on visas for seasonal agricultural workers. Both bills passed the House with bipartisan support: The dreamers bill passed with nine Republican votes, while the farmworkers legislation had the support of 30 Republicans.
Even on those issues, it would be difficult to find a consensus.
A bipartisan group of 14 senators — five Republicans and nine Democrats — are meeting in hopes of striking a deal on a narrower immigration compromise that would marry border security priorities important to Republicans with a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers and dreamers. Senators are discussing all bills that have been introduced, including a bipartisan measure recently proposed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on border security. These talks, however, are not very far along and a deal would be difficult to strike.
We can expect laughter to break out when Biden “congratulates” Vice President Kamala Harris for her work as border czar. Harris has unilaterally altered her mission to have as little to do with the border as possible. It’s a loser issue for Democrats and Harris wants no part of it.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has stood before Congress and promised to “reform” immigration. Some haven’t tried very hard. Others, like George W. Bush, saw their administration fall apart by trying to pass “comprehensive” legislation. Bush failed and so will Biden.