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February 10, 2014 10:59 AM Schumer Says “Check”

By Ed Kilgore

In case you missed it yesterday, Senate Gang of Eight member Chuck Schumer went on Meet the Press and responded to the almost universal complaints of congressional Republicans that the lawless ways of Barack Obama were making it mighty hard to close any sort of deal on immigration reform. Here’s how Politico’s Seung Min Kim described it:

The Gang of Eight leader’s plan: Pass a law this year, but don’t allow it to actually start taking place until 2017 — when President Barack Obama leaves office. That’s meant to target the heart of House GOP resistance to taking up immigration measures this year — that they simply don’t trust Obama to implement the law, particularly provisions on border security and interior enforcement.
“Now I think that the rap against him — that he won’t enforce the law — is false,” Schumer said of Obama on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He’s deported more people than any other president, but you could actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it.”

You have to figure Schumer vetted this idea—or the idea of raising this idea, at least—with the White House and with immigration reform advocates (some of the latter are noting that it will take many months to write and promulgate regulations for a comprehensive reform law, making 2017 as an effective date not that far from what it will be anyway). So he in effect sprang a trap the Republicans set for themselves in making Obama’s presence the all-purpose excuse for doing nothing on immigration reform.

Congressional Republicans, of course, rejected Schumer’s idea immediately, on grounds that—get this—an enacted reform bill would eliminate Obama’s incentives to enforce existing laws (gee, I thought he already wasn’t enforcing them!). But Schumer’s gambit certainly undermined the “we can’t trust Obama” talking point decisively, and was the equivalent of a wily chess player’s “check.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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