WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama made a plea for Republican cooperation on immigration Thursday, seeking common ground by year’s end in the aftermath of the divisive partial government shutdown. Yet prospects for success this year remain a long shot even as a handful of House GOP lawmakers push for more limited measures.
Obama’s renewed focus on immigration comes amid mounting criticism of the White House over computer problems that have plagued insurance enrollment under the 3-year-old health care law. It also comes nearly four months since a bipartisan majority in the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that would tighten border security and provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living here illegally.
“Rather than create problems, let’s prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve some problems,” Obama said during an event devoted to immigration at the White House.
The Senate measure has stalled in the House, where most Republicans reject a comprehensive approach and many question offering citizenship to people who broke U.S. immigration laws to be in this country.
Still, White House officials say they believe that the partial government shutdown, rather than poisoning the political atmosphere, may have created an opportunity for collaboration with Republicans seeking to repair their image, which polls show took a hit during the prolonged fight over financing the government and extending the nation’s borrowing limit.
Moreover, Obama made a point of underscoring support for an immigration bill from the members of the business community, traditional Republican allies who criticized GOP tactics that led to the partial shutdown and to brinkmanship over a potentially economy-jarring default on U.S. debt.
The White House took notice when Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, indicated on Wednesday that he was hopeful that immigration legislation could be done before year’s end.
But Republican strategists also say the most opportune time to act might not come until after next year’s 2014 primary elections.