President Barack Obama said he’s going to try to make it as easy “as possible” for House Speaker John Boehner to get immigration reform past House conservatives who have expressed vocal opposition to such efforts.
“It’s my estimation that we actually have the votes to get comprehensive immigration reform done in the House right now,” Obama said Tuesday before going into a closed-door meeting with business leaders. “The politics have been challenging for the speaker of the House and we want to make this as easy for him as possible. This is not an issue where we are looking for a political win. This is one where we are looking for a substantive win.”
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were meeting with business leaders at the White House to push immigration reform. The reform would grant legal status to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, providing what supporters call a “pathway to citizenship” and what opponents say is amnesty.
The president did not elaborate in his remarks before the meeting as to whether making it easier for Boehner (R-Ohio) would mean compromising on certain provisions of the Senate bill that passed this summer.
Obama repeated his view that more illegal immigrants gaining legal status would grow the economy and reduce the federal deficit. Some conservatives fear it would harm American workers and while also ushering in millions of Democratic voters.
“As we saw in the Senate, there is strong potential for bipartisan support,” Obama said. “So what I’m going to be talking to the business community about is about how we can continue to amplify this issue in the coming weeks.”
“There is no reason we can’t get this done before the end of the year and I continue to be hopeful that with the leadership around this table, who represent hundreds of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in assets for communities all across the country, them joining up with law enforcement, clergy, citizens to make the case that ultimately folks up on Capitol Hill will do the right thing,” he continued. “Right now, there has been some resistance from House Republicans. What’s been encouraging is that a number of House Republicans have said we think this is the right thing to do as well.”
In July, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill providing a pathway to citizenship, with support from several Republicans who voted for it. The legislation would include certain requirements for those already in the U.S. illegally to gain legal residency, such as paying certain back taxes.
A June report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said if the Senate immigration bill is enacted, wages would go down through 2025, at which point average pay would begin to increase. It would also raise the unemployment rate slightly through 2020. However, the same report said it would expand the overall economy by raising productivity and increasing capital investments.