Democrats have a new message for House Republicans who have been reluctant to take up a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year: Pass a bill in six weeks, or watch the White House take action on its own.
Four Senate Democratic leaders told reporters on Thursday they want House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to bring legislation to the floor “before the August break,” or else President Obama would begin taking executive action on immigration issues.
“Here is the bottom line,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “They have about a six-week window, from June 10 after the last Republican primary till the August recess. If they don't pass immigration reform then, the president will have no choice but to act on his own.”
Democrats said they would not accept piecemeal legislation, either, despite Boehner’s promise to take up immigration reform in increments.
“We are not going to go along with minor fixes that fail to address the huge systematic problems of our immigration system today,” Schumer said.
Boehner has refused to take up immigration legislation, citing a lack of trust in Obama, who has used his executive authority to circumvent Congress and in particular Republicans who oppose his ideas.
“Delaying implementation of immigration reform is not my preference, but I feel so strongly this bill needs to get done, I am willing to show flexibility,” Reid said.
Obama has already signaled he intends to take executive action on immigration issues. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is currently re-evaluating the department's deportation policies, in part because of pressure from Latinos over the separation of families.
Obama said he wants deportations conducted “more humanely.”
Obama has already taken executive action to prevent deportation of some children who came here illegally.
Other possible changes could include allowing illegal immigrants to enlist in the military or permitting family members of illegal immigrant children to remain here legally.
Boehner said Thursday the House will not take up a 1,300-page comprehensive immigration bill Senate lawmakers passed one year ago.
Boehner blamed the inaction in the House on Obama, who he said has lost the trust of the House GOP because of his use of executive actions to change the law, including Obamacare, which has been altered dozens of times since it was passed.
“The president has to rebuild this trust if we're going to be able to do this,” Boehner said.