Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) backed away from a major push on immigration reform in the coming weeks, amid concerns that the issue may be too volatile for an election year agenda already packed with ambitious legislative plans.
The announcement came in the face of earlier indications from third-ranking Democrat Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that immigration could get done soon. Reid told thousands of activists during a rally in Las Vegas over the weekend that the Senate would act on immigration reform “now,” raising expectations among his Latino base that Congress would suddenly take up the politically charged issue.
But asked about the bill’s status Tuesday, Reid backed away from the pledge to act on it immediately.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Reid said. “We won't get to immigration reform this work period. We won't get to the Supreme Court justice this weekend. We have lots of things to do and I've spent most of the caucus today [discussing with my members] the things we have to do and how we're going to do them.”
The current seven-week work period ends right before Memorial Day, but others don’t think there’s a chance the bill will get done in the months leading up to Election Day.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the leading Republican negotiator over immigration reform, also said emphatically Tuesday that Congress won’t be able to pass a comprehensive bill this year.
“Immigration is going nowhere this year,” the South Carolina Republican said Tuesday.
Graham said President Barack Obama needs to spend more political capital and take a stronger lead if he wants a bill to have any chance of passing at all.
“After health care, people are risk averse around here,” Graham said. “If you’re a red state Democrat, you want to get into an immigration debate right now? I don’t think so.”
The majority leader told reporters after meeting with his caucus that he plans to focus on regulation reform, food safety, campaign finance legislation, long-term unemployment programs and potentially an energy bill. (Continues here)