THE MORNING LINE -- May 10, 2011 at 8:52 AM ET
President Obama to Renew Push for Immigration Reform
Thousands marched in Los Angeles last week for immigration and labor reform. Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.
When President Obama takes to the stage at 3:30 p.m. EDT in El Paso, Texas, and launches the next phase of his public campaign to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, he'll be doing so against the backdrop of the recently released 2010 Census data.
According to the data, Latinos made up more than half of the population growth over the last decade, most rapidly in the South. Today, one of every six Americans -- about 50 million people -- is Hispanic.
However, it's possible the more significant data point is one that's remained unchanged since 2006. Opposition to a comprehensive reform package remains strong enough to deny the president the sufficient votes.
President Obama and his team are eager to tout all they've done on border security in order to inoculate one of the key obstacles to moving the debate back to comprehensive immigration reform: a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11-12 million immigrants currently residing in the United States illegally.
"The number of border agents today is double what it was in 2004. We have tripled the number of intelligence analysts working the border. We've deployed unmanned aerial vehicles that now patrol the border from Texas to California. We are screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south, even as we go after drugs coming north. So we're seeing results," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at Monday's press briefing.
In addition to a more secure border, senior administration officials indicated the president will make an economic argument for immigration reform, noting that 25 percent of job-creating, high-tech startup companies were founded by immigrants.
The White House acknowledges that the votes currently aren't there in Congress, and the meetings with stakeholders in recent weeks, combined with the president's speech Tuesday, are aimed at sparking more public support for reform in order to push Congress to act.
"It's disappointing that the only time border security and immigration reform get President Obama's attention is when he is campaigning," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement issued on the eve of the president's visit. "The bottom line is that nothing President Obama says, or where he says it, can change the fact that he failed to deliver on his promise to make immigration reform a priority during his first year in office."
The politics are hard to ignore.
Latinos made up 9 percent of the national electorate in 2008, and Mr. Obama walloped Sen. John McCain among those voters by more than 2-to-1.
More important to his re-election than those national numbers are the Hispanic voters in key battleground states. In Colorado, they accounted for 13 percent of the electorate; in Florida, 14 percent; in Nevada, 15 percent; in Arizona, 16 percent; and in New Mexico, 41 percent. Combined, those five states account for 60 critical electoral votes.
President Obama's aides are eager to say this push for immigration reform is about policy not politics. However, with the fastest growing portion of the electorate in key battleground states keenly attuned to this issue, it's not hard to imagine that if the administration falls short of its goal to enact legislation, then utilizing the issue for political gain is a runner-up outcome they'll happily accept.
BOEHNER'S DEBT LIMIT DEMANDS
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled Monday that Republicans intend to seek trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts as part of an agreement with President Obama and congressional Democrats to raise the legal limit on government borrowing.
"Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase," Rep. Boehner told the Economic Club of New York. "The cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given," the speaker added.
In an appearance Tuesday on NBC's "TODAY" show, Rep. Boehner said that given the amount of spending cuts needed, lawmakers must be prepared to look at mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Medicaid for savings.
"We know that these programs will not exit in the future if we don't make changes to them because they're unaffordable for our kids and our grandkids," Speaker Boehner told co-host Matt Lauer. "It's time to look each other in the eye and do what we know has to be done."
Rep. Boehner also repeated his assertion that raising taxes was a non-starter for Republicans. "It is off the table. Everything else is on the table."
The speaker blamed the country's fiscal woes on government excess, not a lack of revenue. "We can take all of the money from the wealthy and guess what, we'd hardly make a dent in the annual deficit and do nothing about the $14.3 trillion worth of debt," he said.
Rep. Boehner's terms for raising the debt ceiling will surely have an impact on negotiations, which are set to resume Tuesday at the Blair House in Washington, D.C., between Vice President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders.
The group held its first meeting last Thursday with the vice president releasing a statement afterward indicating the session had been "productive."
President Obama is slated to hold separate talks this week with Senate Democrats on Wednesday and Senate Republicans on Thursday.
But given Speaker Boehner's fresh demands, it remains to be seen exactly what's drawn in the sand: A clear line or a big question mark?
BOEHNER'S 2012 ANALYSIS
Lauer wouldn't let Speaker Boehner leave Tuesday without lobbing a few questions about the state of the 2012 Republican field.
The first question dealt with a potential bid from Donald Trump, which the speaker did his best to deflect. "There are a lot of good candidates out there. Donald Trump would be one of them, maybe. He really hasn't said whether he is running or not running," he said.
Rep. Boehner also touched on the impending entry of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose official announcement is expected Wednesday. The current speaker said Gingrich "brings an awful lot to the debate."
He also praised New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his "plain talk." While Gov. Christie has stated repeatedly that he will not run, it was reported over the weekend that a group of Iowa Republicans have launched a campaign to recruit him into the race.
The most noteworthy comments from the speaker came when he mentioned Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former budget director in the George W. Bush administration. Rep. Boehner said Gov. Daniels was "looking pretty seriously" at running and that he's someone "who has got a real track record of reform in his state -- the kind of reforms that we need to have in Washington, D.C."
Gov. Daniels is seen as a favorite among many fiscal conservatives, and the speaker's remarks are the clearest sign yet that Republican leaders are hoping to entice the Indiana governor into the race.
SCHWARZENEGGER AND SHRIVER SPLIT
One of the most high-profile political couples has announced their separation after 25 years of marriage.
Hollywood movie star turned California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his wife from the Kennedy clan, Maria Shriver, issued a joint statement Monday night to the Los Angeles Times:
"This has been a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us. After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion and prayer, we came to this decision together. At this time, we are living apart while we work on the future of our relationship.
"We are continuing to parent our four children together. They are the light and the center of both of our lives. We consider this a private matter and neither we nor any of our friends or family will have further comment. We ask for compassion and respect from the media and the public."
Schwarzenegger was term limited out of office in January and has left his low poll numbers behind as he plots a return to Hollywood movie-making. Shriver has yet to make clear what her professional plans are for her post-first lady years.
Shriver played a critical role in her husband's election as governor in 2003, defending him in the face of charges by women who accused him of sexual harassment and groping.
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