DIONNE: The new politics of immigration reform
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.
Republicans who always held views on immigration similar to the president's — notably Sen. John McCain — are now free to say so. Other Republicans who thought a hard line on the issue was a political winner have been forced by the electoral facts to change their minds. Democrats, aware of how important Latino votes are to their party's future, are determined to get immigration reform done. Nothing is certain in Washington, especially in the Republican-led House of Representatives, but the odds that we will finally fix a broken immigration system are very high.
The behind-the-scenes wrangling over the choreography of this week's twin immigration announcements — by a bipartisan group of senators and by the president in a speech in Nevada — shows how strong the bias toward action has become.
We've become so accustomed to the politics of obstruction that we forget there is still such a thing as legislative craftsmanship. Monday's unveiling by eight
But Obama felt compelled to make clear early on that immigration reform was one of his highest priorities. The Senate negotiators worried that if Obama got out front with positions more progressive than theirs, particularly on a speedier path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he could foil their efforts to reach accord.
This fear reflected the GOP's Obama-can't-win response to whatever he does. Until now, Republicans criticized him for not taking
Conservative supporters of reform, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, will keep saying critical things about the president to preserve their credibility with the right. And if Boehner is interested in reform, he, too, must play a delicate game of distancing himself from Obama to persuade his most conservative colleagues to acquiesce to a vote on a bill.
But make no mistake: This is immigration reform's time. It was poignant to hear McCain state plainly and eloquently what he has always felt.
E.J. Dionne Jr. is a columnist for the Washington Post.
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