Obama: Now that this shutdown's out of the way, it's time for amnesty

When your opponent is weak, press your advantage.

“Once that’s done — you know, the day after — I’m going to be pushing (Congress) to say, call a vote on immigration reform,” Obama told the Los Angeles affiliate of Univision, the Spanish language television network.

Obama’s immigration hopes figure to continue hitting opposition in the Republican-run House, where members describe a proposed path to citizenship as amnesty for lawbreakers…

As he has during shutdown and debt ceiling impasses, Obama placed the blame on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

“We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate,” Obama told Univision. “The only thing right now that’s holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

I hate to say it but this is the smart play for him politically, no? For two reasons. First, the last last last thing Obama wants after his big shutdown/debt ceiling win is to let the GOP start a party-unifying feeding frenzy over the ObamaCare tech disaster. That’s where we’re headed starting tomorrow, and that’s why O’s emphasizing that he won’t waste a single day before reintroducing a shiny object to change the subject. I doubt it’ll work but he’s got to try something, and immigration reform is one of the last big policy initiatives he stands a chance of passing before he’s a hopelessly lame duck. If nothing else, given that immigration reform polls well, talking it up for a week or two might help revive his job approval after the beating it’s taken over the last three weeks.

Second, what better way to keep RINOs and tea partiers at each other’s throats than by pushing amnesty front and center? In a sane world, GOP leaders in Congress would reject it out of hand for precisely that reason; now is a moment to repair relations within the party, not deepen the schism by pushing hard on immigration reform. Do Republicans like Boehner and Ryan see it that way, though? Now that their own job approval is at rock bottom, they may be less concerned with pleasing conservatives than with rehabilitating their image with the wider public (and Latinos especially). And, as noted, immigration reform polls reasonably well. They may even figure that, having already alienated tea partiers with the big shutdown cave — e.g., here’s Erick Erickson basically calling for primaries all around — there’s less to lose than there normally would be by betraying the right yet again. If you’re going to get primaried for “selling out” on defunding ObamaCare, you might as well pander to centrists and Latino voters with a big immigration bill. That might boost centrist turnout for you in a primary, which would dilute the effect of a tea-party backlash.

But of course, it’d be hugely risky. Conservatives in the House might let Boehner slide on the big fiscal cave just because they never really offered him a strategy to make the “defund” effort work, but if he rubber-stamped an amnesty deal he’d lose them irretrievably. To do that would mean committing to govern the House with Democratic votes for the next year, which would be potentially ruinous for the GOP in the midterms. All of which is to say, while there are reasons why the Republican leadership might kinda sorta consider this, O certainly knows that it’s unlikely to pass. He’s going to press it urgently now not because he thinks Boehner might bring the Gang of Eight bill to the floor but because he suspects he won’t and plans to use that to hurt the GOP with centrists. “Tea partiers forced their leaders into a shutdown,” he’ll say, “and now they’re forcing Boehner not to allow a vote on a Senate deal that would pass. The only solution is a new Democratic majority in the House.” Probably won’t work, but if he wants to get anything done in the last two years of his presidency, Speaker Pelosi is his one and only hope.

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