Speaking to a Hispanic audience in Las Vegas, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said he sees no hope of passing comprehensive immigration reform this summer and blamed House Speaker John Boehner for not holding a vote on the matter.
“It’s gone until next year,” Reid, D-Nev., said at a brief news conference after his talk to Hispanics in Politics.
Reid added, however, that there’s a possibility of action after the Nov. 4 general election. Perhaps some Republicans in close races might come around if they win re-election, he said, although conservative GOP members oppose “amnesty” for immigrants who have broken U.S. laws by coming here.
“Maybe we’ll get something in the lame-duck” session, Reid said after speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 120 people at Doña Maria Tamales Mexican Restaurant.
Reid slammed both Boehner, R-Ohio, for telling President Barack Obama that he won’t bring immigration up for a vote this year and U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., for not putting more pressure on GOP leadership.
“The Republicans should suffer at the ballot box,” Reid said, adding of Heck, “He’s not been helpful.”
On Tuesday, Heck said he talked again to Boehner about immigration reform before the July 4 congressional break.
Heck said he thinks lawmakers should try to pass pieces of immigration reform, starting with securing the border where thousands of Central Americans, mostly women and children, are now rushing across. Also, Heck said Congress should protect from deportation young undocumented immigrants who were raised in the United States. Obama already has, by executive action, allowed the so-called DREAMers to legally work and study here.
Heck and other Republicans, however, object to Obama circumventing Congress.
Reid said Republicans have openly stated their intention to oppose Obama on almost every issue, and immigration is no different. He said Republicans in Washington, D.C., are out of step with Americans, who are shown in polls to largely support fixing the immigration system.
“The American people agree that we should do something positive on comprehensive immigration reform,” Reid said. “Republicans in the House, led by John Boehner, have done nothing — nothing.”
Reid said Obama called him late last week and told him that Boehner had informed the president he wouldn’t bring immigration up for a vote on the House floor, a year after the Senate passed a major reform bill.
Reid said Obama then told him, “So I’m going to have to do it” with executive action.
Obama plans to ask Congress for $2 billion to deal with immigrants, including the crisis at the border with tens of thousands of children crossing into the United States in hopes of staying here.
Reid said Obama has asked the attorney general and the head of Homeland Security to devise a plan that probably would slow deportations of immigrants who are living in the United States illegally.
Meantime, Reid said the immigrant children need care, though the law is unclear about what the United States should do with them.
Reid said fixing the immigration system and giving an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living here now a path to U.S. citizenship could inject some $1 trillion into the economy and help reduce the U.S. debt.
“I can’t imagine why the Republicans are doing what they’re doing,” Reid said. “They’re always whining and crying about the debt.”
Reid said he was “dumbfounded” by Heck’s immigration stance. Heck does not support the Senate bill and has said he prefers dealing with reform efforts in separate bills instead.
“Why doesn’t he go to his leader and tell him, John, why don’t you pass this?” Reid asked, predicting there are enough House votes.
Heck is running for election to a third term in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Boulder City and Henderson. Reid backs Heck’s Democratic opponent, Erin Bilbray, in the race.
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