Members of Congress return to work this week to a packed agenda for 2014, which begs the question: Is immigration reform part of their already hefty to-do list?
What’s on the 2014 agenda for both parties?
At the top of the agenda for Republicans is continuing with their efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act. Some have already begun to scrutinize the Obama administration’s tally of the total number of people who’ve enrolled for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) reportedly sent a memo to House Republicans on Thursday, informing them about legislation aimed at strengthening security requirements on the HealthCare.gov website in order to protect consumers. He said the GOP-controlled House would consider such legislation this week. This comes weeks after the security breach at Target.
“American families have enough to worry about as we enter the new year without having to wonder if they can trust the government to inform them when their personal information — entered into a government mandated website — has been compromised,” Cantor wrote in the memo.
House Republicans are also focusing their efforts on persuading the Senate to pass the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, legislation that would increase funding for pediatric research by ending taxpayer subsidies for party conventions. The bill passed the House last month.
Meanwhile, at the top of the agenda for Democrats is restoring unemployment benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans who saw their benefits run out last week.
In his weekly address, President Barack Obama encouraged members of Congress to approve legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for three months. Obama is planning an event at the White House on Tuesday to build support for the measure, which is sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
Recognizing that the bill is likely to face opposition from some Republicans, Obama said in his weekly address:
“Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.”
The measure faces a critical first vote in the Senate on Monday. It needs at least 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) seemed optimistic about reaching the 60 votes.
“There’s 55 of us, and there’s 45 of them,” Reid said. “It would seem to me that five Republicans in the Senate should agree with the Republicans around the country. Republicans around America want us to do something to extend these benefits. Why? Because it’s good for the economy. It’s good for the country.”
Is immigration reform on the 2014 agenda?
Despite the packed agenda, supporters of immigration reform say they are hopeful members of Congress will include immigration reform do their to-do list. They say they want Congress to pass immigration reform legislation before the midterm elections in November.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said 2013 was a year when “a strong majority of Americans realized we need a new immigration process.”
“In 2014, that majority expects not just talk but action,” Noorani said. “Democratic and Republican leaders alike need to rise above political gamesmanship and pass reform that honors our values and benefits all Americans.”
While speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he also believes immigration reform legislation will pass in 2014. He added that seeing House Speaker John Boehner push back against the tea party during the budget debate in December was a good sign for immigration reform.
“For the first time, Speaker Boehner said he is not going to let the minority of his caucus, tea party minority, run the show,” Schumer said. “They’re the people who have been opposed to immigration reform. Many of the mainstream conservatives, just like in the Senate, are for it.”
“So I think it’s likely we’re going to get a bill this year,” he continued.
The New York Times reported last week that Boehner is gearing up to back some form of immigration reform in the coming months. He recently hired Rebecca Tallent, a longtime expert and advocate of immigration reform, as his immigration adviser. Supporters say the hiring indicates he is serious about getting something done on immigration reform.