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Reid Ready to Go on Reform But White House Press Secretary Wants to Triple Check “Vote Counts”

by Jacquelyn Mahendra on 06/22/2009 at 6:04pm

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While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has come out swinging in support of moving comprehensive immigration reform this year, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seems equally determined to lower advocates’ expectations in advance of this Thursday’s big White House immigration meeting.

In a Politico piece entitled, “Harry Reid wants immigration bill this year,” Reid appears fired up and ready for reform:

Passing immigration reform is “going to happen this session,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), referring to the 111th Congress. “But I want it this year if at all possible.” 

Reid’s comments make Gibbs’ wish-washy statements last Friday and today seem a bit baffling, at best.

Gibbs, at a June 19th White House press briefing:

Q    Quickly on immigration.  He said something today in his speech at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, that he wanted to seek comprehensive immigration reform.  In his hundred-day press conference he talked about — he seemed to step back from that.  So what’s changed since — before he said, “We want to enforce some laws on the books, then we’ll start looking at trying to do some more.”

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think that –

Q    I mean, has something changed since the hundred-day –

MR. GIBBS:  No, I think the meeting next week will continue this process.  But as we’ve said before, Chuck, we know there’s — we know the votes aren’t there right now.  This is a –

Q    And that’s what’s dictating the timetable.  (Laughter.) 
MR. GIBBS:  I’ll point you ad nauseum to any number of the questions on health care that might — I mean, yes, if we can’t seek 50 plus one, it will be tough to pass.

No, I mean, to be more serious, I think there’s a seriousness in an effort, but in understanding that in — I think in 2005 and 2006, even in 2007, there was not a majority yet to do this.  We want to work with those, both in favor and support of those previous efforts, to see where we can get comprehensive immigration reform to pass.

Gibbs, at a White House press briefing today:

Q    What do you see as a realistic timetable for getting immigration reform through Congress?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think as I talked about last week, the President is going to have a meeting at the White House on Thursday with those that have supported and opposed in the past what the President believes is comprehensive immigration reform.  I think this is — I think as I described it last week — part of the ongoing and continued conversation, understanding that we’ve still got progress to make in order to get something like this through the House and the Senate.

I think the President hopes that later this year we can have and begin formal debate on that.  And I think he hopes that it will happen soon, but doesn’t have a crystal ball as to when that might happen.

Q    With everything else that’s going on you can see it slipping into next year?

MR. GIBBS:  I can see the President’s desire for it to happen, but understanding that the current –currently where we sit, the math makes that more difficult than the discussion.

Alright, alright, Gibbs, we get it. Immigration reform is not easy.

But neither are the other top priorities of the Administration, like energy and healthcare.

Even if the White House’s intent with these comments is to lower expectations before this Thursday’s meeting, Gibbs’ comments are likely to set off alarm bells with advocates who have taken Obama at his word, at his pledge to move real reform forward this year.

These advocates rallied tens of thousands of calls into the White House last week alone, in support of comprehensive immigration reform, and they’re watching to see what the White House and Congress do next. 

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