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The End of the Group of 7 Shakes Up the Dynamics and Frees Up Our Champions

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Greg Sargent at the Washington Post’s Plum Line broke the story this morning that one bipartisan attempt to craft comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the House is dead.  Here are excerpts from Sargent’s post:

“It doesn’t appear that we’re going to move forward with the group of seven,” Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a key player on immigration as a member of the gang, said in an interview with me.  “The process is stalled. I don’t believe we’re going to produce a bill anytime soon.”

But Gutierrez tells me that House Republicans on the gang of seven — who have been trying to negotiate comprehensive reform that members of both parties can support for a long time — are just not prepared to embrace a final plan.  He says he believes this is because House GOP leaders are not providing Republicans on the gang with support.

“The bipartisan group just wasn’t getting support from Republican House leadership,” Gutierrez says.  “It’s just not gonna happen now.”  Gutierrez continues to believe there is substantial tacit support for immigration reform even among Republicans, but that the GOP leadership refuses to acknowledge this or try to make something happen.  “We need the GOP leadership to acknowledge the votes exist for reform,” he said.

Not long after, two Republicans from the Group of 7 (G7) issued a press release announcing they were also done with the working group.  They cited a lack of trust in President Obama.  But it’s clear to us that their departure was really prompted by a lack of Republican leadership’s trust in them.

What does this mean?  It may mean the G7 bipartisan process is dead, but we believe it will shake up the dynamics of the debate in a way that keeps reform very much alive.  Some will agree with Sargent that it’s a big blow.  For us, it opens new possibilities:

  • It means Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and John Yarmuth (D-KY) are freed from the cul de sac they’ve been stuck in and can use their formidable influence to directly pressure House leadership to take action.
  • It means that House Democrats no longer have to hold back in deference to the G7 process and can bring their pressure to bear on House Republican leadership.
  • It frees up our champions to be ready to re-engage on a bipartisan basis when Republicans get serious about passing immigration reform measures.

Take the role of Rep. Luis Gutierrez.  He is the immigration reform movement’s champion, and he’s trusted by House Republicans who want to enact immigration reform with a path to citizenship.   No longer bound by a working group that lost momentum, he can now bring enormous pressure on House Speaker Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and be one of the go-to Democrats when they realize the only way they can pass immigration legislation is with the support of Democrats.   Obviously, if the House Republican leadership does not want to pass reform, they can kill it.  If they do want reform, they will need to create a bipartisan moment and reach out to Democrats willing to work with them.  The G7 Democrats are the leading contenders.

But what if the House leadership continues to stall?  We suspect that Rep. Gutierrez and his Democratic colleagues will pressure vulnerable Republicans to press their leadership to act – with the implication being that they will face a withering 2014 election season if they don’t.  All the while, Rep. Gutierrez will continue to work with the movement for reform to pressure President Obama to take bold executive action and stop the deportations of those who would be eligible for legal status and citizenship under pending proposals.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

When one door closes, other doors open.  We are glad that a moribund process has been put to rest and that our leading champions for reform are freed up to bring the full weight of their power to pressure Republicans to take action.  We remain optimistic that immigration reform with a path to citizenship has a chance be enacted into law this year, and that legislation is the best solution to the challenges facing 11 million undocumented immigrants.  Republicans who want reform will either find a way to work with Reps. Gutierrez, Becerra, Lofgren and Yarmuth or will find themselves being punished for not doing so.