The manufactured debt limit and shutdown crises are about to be put behind us. But the deal also launches a new around of House-Senate budget negotiations that are sure to be contentious. Democrats need to be careful not to let Republican intransigence chew up the clock and deprive President Obama’s second term of any more significant legislative reforms.
Obama seems to be well aware of the risk. Yesterday he told Univision, “Once [the debt limit and shutdown deal is] done, you know, the day after — I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform. And if I have to join with other advocates and continue to speak out on that, and keep pushing, I’m going to do so because I think it’s really important for the country. And now is the time to do it.”
The window is limited. New rounds of deadlines to keep the government open come in late January and early February. And the campaign season for the congressional midterm elections will heat up in the summer, making bipartisanship less likely.
Perhaps immigration advocates could get one more bite at the apple come spring (too close to the filing deadline for any last-minute primary challengers to pop up). But we’ve seen how easy it is for unexpected crises, such as Syria, to bump items off of the congressional agenda — especially items that certain timid Republicans who hold gavels might rather circumvent than confront. It’d be way too dicey to aim for next year.
So the time to push is now. Immigration advocates did a bangup job hounding House Republicans in August, and had a good — but poorly timed — national rally two weeks ago. That grassroots pressure need to build, and fast, to get House Republicans to move.