POLITICS
05/22/2014 02:00 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2014

Harry Reid Tries To Call Republicans' Bluff On Immigration Reform

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attempted on Thursday to call Republicans' bluff on immigration reform: If they're truly concerned about how President Barack Obama will enforce the law, he said, they should pass a bill that would go into effect after he leaves office.

"Here's a suggestion to resolve the impasse. I think it's fairly reasonable," Reid said at a press conference. "Let's pass immigration reform today and make it take effect at the beginning of 2017. Republicans don't trust President Obama. Let's give them the chance to implement the bill under President Rand Paul or President Theodore Cruz."

It's not a new idea -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) floated the idea in February. But as House Republicans continue to stall on voting on any immigration legislation, Reid's statement indicated that Senate Democrats aren't quite ready to give up.

Instead, they're continuing to go after the House GOP and calling for a vote over the next six weeks, warning that if the lower chamber doesn't act, they'll fully support Obama in taking administrative action to slow deportations.

Reid was challenged on why they are still pressing the House to act rather than changing their focus and asking the president to halt deportations.

"We've waited 329 days," Reid replied, referring to the time elapsed since the Senate passed its immigration bill. "We're willing to wait another six weeks. But at the end of six weeks, if something hasn't been done, then there's going to have to be a move made. And it's too bad we have to do that, because we all know things can be done administratively, but it's better to change the law."

Reid declined to specify what administrative changes to deportations he would support.

Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked at a press conference why he was "blocking" immigration reform. He said he has been telling Congress for months to legislate on the issue, but that distrust of Obama remains a big problem.

"The president has to rebuild this trust if we're going to be able to do this," he said, later adding that "there's nobody more interesting in fixing this issue than I am."

Senate Democrats, though, charged Boehner with allowing hardliners like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to control the House GOP on immigration. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pointed out that Boehner allowed a vote on King's amendment to end a policy that permits undocumented young people to apply to stay and work in the U.S. for two or more years.

"Speaker Boehner thought it was appropriate within the last year to call that to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote," Durbin said. "Sadly, his members supported it overwhelmingly. That, to me, was an embarrassing moment. Embarrassing that the House of Representatives would take that up as their only action on immigration this year."

Appearing at the same press conference, Schumer said that smaller-scale measures would not be enough for House Republicans to claim they addressed immigration reform. He singled out the Enlist Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to join the military and eventually gain citizenship. That bill was blocked this week from even getting a vote as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, but GOP leadership has not ruled out allowing it to receive a vote as a standalone bill.

"Anyone who thinks the Enlist Act is going to satisfy anybody that something was done on immigration reform is whistling to the wind," Schumer said.

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