Immigration reform continues to occupy the top of the “must do” and “can do” lists of this Administration and many in Congress, as well as state governors and the fastest growing minority block of voters in the United States: Hispanics (Hispanics name immigration reform as a top priority). The Senate has already acted, passing a bipartisan comprehensive reform bill.
This multifaceted confluence of political wills appears to have caught the attention of House leaders. Facing mid-term elections (typically an impediment to congressional action), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that his caucus will discuss legislative possibilities at their retreat this weekend. Still trying to shake off the obstructionist brand following the government shutdown last year, the Speaker seems to have gained momentum in convincing his caucus they need to produce something.
The circumstances are ripe for the President to mount the bully pulpit to build the pressure on House Republicans. What better venue than the State of the Union address? But President Obama seemingly deferred with a timid urging. His time on the subject lasted all of 60 seconds.
Throughout his term, the President has been criticized for being deliberative to a fault, stand-offish, and prone to letting situations work themselves out. In this circumstance, this personality trait or tactic may have been deliberate. And it may just work.
Knowing Republicans backs are against a wall on this one, petty political rhetoric may only antagonize members, distracting them from a substantive fix or agreement on reform. Time will tell, but if immigration reforms are signed into law this year, the President’s decision to hang loose may have just been the only bullying needed.