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Sargent On Obama's Throwdown to GOP: Work With Dems on Immigration Reform or Pay Political Price For Killing It

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This morning, during his speech urging Congress to pass immigration reform, President Obama said that:

Good policy is good politics in this instance. And if folks are really that consumed with the politics of fixing our broken immigration system, they should take a closer look at the polls, because the American people support this. It’s not something they reject; they support it. Everybody wins here if we work together to get this done. In fact, if there’s a good reason not to pass this common-sense reform, I haven’t heard it. So anyone still standing in the way of this bipartisan reform should at least have to explain why. A clear majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.

As Greg Sargent at the Washington Post wrote today, today’s speech was Obama’s throwdown to Republicans–letting them know that Republicans can kill immigration reform if they like–but there will be hell to pay if they do.  As Sargent wrote:

It’s still very possible — perhaps even likely – that House GOP leaders will end up killing immigration reform. But Democrats are now signaling how they intend to extract a maximum political price for its death – by adding it to the growing indictment of the GOP as so hopelessly hostage to its extreme elements that it’s lost the ability to solve the country’s problems.

After all, it’s only been about a week since the fiscal negotiations were resolved.  With the GOP brand more in the toilet than ever–Sargent cites a Washington Post/ABC poll finding that only one in five Americans believe that Republicans are “interested in doing what’s best for the country”–Republicans have a choice.  They can go on listening to Steve King and many of the same Tea Partiers who led them into the fiscal mess, and refuse to take action on immigration reform.  Or they can actually pass legislation in the House, and prove that they are capable of governing.  Some Republican donors, according to the Wall Street Journal, are already withholding money in order to push for the latter.

In the end, it continues to be up to Speaker John Boehner and his deputies, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy.  Will they take action and preserve a future for the GOP?  Or will they allow even more voters to turn even more permanently against Republicans than has already happened?  As Sargent puts it:

Indeed, we’re not getting immigration reform if GOP leaders are not willing to make conservatives angry at some point in the process…

Will John Boehner let the right set the agenda yet again? Maybe, but as Sean Sullivan points out:

Boehner listened to the right flank of his conference in the fiscal fight, and that path was politically destructive for his party. That’s enough to believe he will at least entertain the possibility of tuning the hard-liners out a bit more this time around.

Indeed, if it does matter to GOP leaders that large majorities don’t appear to think Republicans want to do what’s best for the country, immigration reform is one of a few remaining ways to demonstrate otherwise. Dems have let it be known they will continue to frame the choice in these terms.

Read the full column at the Washington Post here.