Washington - After the much anticipated meeting between Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Senator Lindsey Graham Republican of South Carolinait it became apparent that the Republicans want to win the Health Care debate at any cost, including the destruction of over 11 million lives when Mr. Graham, said “in no uncertain terms” that the immigration debate “could come to a halt for the year” if the president moved to pass health care legislation by reconciliation, a method which requires a majority of 51 senators instead of 60 to pass. Reconciliation would require no Republican votes.
The White House has been preparing for a possible reconciliation vote since losing its supermajority in the January Massachusetts Senate election and finding out that he would get no Republican support. Nothing in todays discussion indicated that the President would not use reconciliation to pass the Health care vote, even following Graham's warning.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, quickly send out a statement reminding the White House that conservatives will fight any plan that grants "amnesty" to illegal immigrants. Bipartisan support for anything the president wants to do will come at a heavy price.
"Americans have rejected amnesty in 2006 and 2007," King said,"and they will reject it again if the Obama administration tries to force it upon them. It is wrong to reward immigration law breakers."
Senators Schumer and Graham said they provided Mr. Obama with a three-page outline of the immigration reform bill they are working on. They ask the president to help them in getting republican support. Obama said that he "looked forward to reviewing their promising framework."
Most of Thursday afternoon was spend in meetings about immigration and the overhaul of the entire system. The bill as proposed by Schumer and Graham would create a path to legal status to the more than 11 million people living in the United States substantially in hiding. The bill would strengthen the borders and create a temporary worker system that would permit foreign workers to come in to the U.S. to work . Additionally it would created a national identification system, something opposed by many civil rights organizations. Many of them have argued that a national ID card system will lead to a slippery slope of surveillance and monitoring of citizens. Once in place it would diminish the freedom and privacy of law-abiding citizens. They argue that it is exceedingly unlikely that such a system would be restricted to its original purpose.
President Barack Obama assured immigration advocates that he remains committed to fixing a system he has said is broken and that "my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort."
For Obama, the immigration issue is very important. He understands that Hispanics voted heavily for him in the presidential election. Their vote made the difference in key states like Florida, and their votes will be extremely important in the November midterm elections. Obama and his fellow Democrats will be fighting to maintain control of the House and Senate, which appears to be slowly slipping from their grasp.
We had a very good discussion about the difficulties," said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union. "I think the president is well aware of it. So are we."
Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, said "It is undeniable that presidential leadership, greater presidential leadership is needed, and the president committed to doing that," she said.
Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the president agreed to help get a legislative framework out before the "March For America" rally scheduled for March 21, 2010 in Washington D.C. "We want results," Salas said. "That's what we're going to be expecting in the next couple of weeks."
What remains unclear is whether Congress will send him a bill this year.