Last night, as expected, President Obama signaled the end of S.744 and the beginning of a new version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform in his State of the Union address. Less than 2 percent of the President’s lengthy speech was about immigration reform. While some pro-immigration forces may see this as a bad thing, there are others who think that this is the correct approach in the complex game of politics.
The President and the Senate learned last year that nothing can get done without Republican-led House approval. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has taken some quiet steps signaling that he may be serious about immigration reform, including the hiring of Becky Tallent in December 2013. Ms. Tallent is a long-time advisor to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who has repeatedly made reform the United States’ immigration laws a priority.
By not aggressively pushing immigration reform in the State of the Union, the President is allowing Rep. Boehner the breathing room to line up House Republicans on the issue. The Republicans are not interested in handing the President a political win. They will only allow an immigration bill to move if they can get the press to report that an immigration bill is Republican driven. That would never have happened if the President had demanded that Congress put a bill on his desk.
The odds are still long. Immigration reform is tough. But the President’s lack of discussion on the issue in last night’s address is yet another move in a long game.