By Melanie Batley
President Barack Obama’s ambitious and once promising plans to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system have been sidetracked amid the fallout from the botched implementation of Obamacare, which continues to dog the administration.
According to Politico, the diversion over the troubled healthcare law has enabled House Republicans to avoid divisive debate on the bipartisan immigration bill passed by the Senate in the summer. Doubts, meanwhile, are mounting about the administration’s competence to manage the complexity of a reformed immigration system, given the problems with the healthcare law.
“There’s a loss of confidence in the government’s ability,” former Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and proponent of the immigration reform bill, said at an event this month, according to Politico.
“Clearly, the last few months, our experience with [the] Affordable Care Act does not help when you look at other big things like immigration reform.”
Conservatives may be able to mount a credible case in the public eye against the government’s ability to manage major programs by capitalizing on the widespread skepticism of Obamacare, according to Politico.
The Senate immigration bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, strengthen border security, and expand the temporary worker program. Those plans are increasingly looking too ambitious to achieve in the current divisive partisan environment.
“It’s going to make it harder to sell big deals” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a lead co-sponsor of the Senate immigration bill, told Politico. “People are now saying, ‘So you’re gonna do immigration. You’re gonna let the same people manage the immigration system that’s managed Obamacare?’”
House Speaker John Boehner‘s spokesman, Brendan Buck, echoed those sentiments, saying that the troubled rollout of Obamacare “validated our warnings against jamming one massive bill that few have read and even fewer fully comprehend.”
“If the Obamacare train wreck has any lesson, it’s that big policy challenges should be addressed deliberatively and one step at a time,” he said.
The Obama administration, however, is trying to sever the link between the two issues, even though it acknowledges that the drop in public confidence over Obamacare may have an effect on its other policy initiatives.
“These are different systems,” White House Press secretary Jay Carney said, according to Politico. “I would point to the extraordinary effort that’s gone into fixing the problems on HealthCare.gov, acknowledging the shortcomings — the serious, significant shortcomings, taking ownership and responsibility for them and acting to fix the problem.
“Because in the end — and this would be true of immigration reform as it is of the HealthCare.gov or the ACA — the issue isn’t in the end how the process is; the process is performed in service of the legislation and the goal. And in this case, in immigration reform, it’s in service of a bill that would provide, when implemented, the benefits that we’ve described and that outside analysts have described.”
Other leading Democrats, meanwhile, say they are hopeful the GOP House leadership will move forward on legislation now that it has shown in the most recent round of budget negotiations that it will not be beholden to the policy agenda of tea party groups.
“I think the chances for immigration reform over the last month or two have only gotten better,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told Politico.
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