The Washington Post

Why Obama is racing against the clock on immigration

President Obama spoke about immigration reform at the White House on Thursday, urging for legislation to pass soon. (

President Obama used a very urgent tone Thursday in remarks designed to press House Republicans to pass immigration reform, calling on them at least twice to try to get it done "this year."

"Let's not wait," the president said. "It doesn't get easier to just put it off. Let's do it now."

Politically speaking, the president is right. The longer the immigration debate drags on, the lower the odds it will culminate in a bill on his desk.

The clock is ticking. (CB/Bigstock)

Here's why.

Every day that goes by is a day closer to the 2014 midterm elections. And the months leading up to Election Day are a time for lawmakers to campaign, raise money, and do everything they can to hold on to their jobs. It's not a time for a contentious legislative debate that could complicate the fall campaign.

That's why history has shown that little gets done legislatively right before the election. Members are in their districts and states more and more often and less and less willing to take risks in Congress.

And immigration reform is a risky proposition for many House Republicans. Despite national polls showing the public largely in favor of overhauling the nation's laws, the calculus is often different back home. This is in large part why months after the Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan immigration bill, the House has yet to act.

But that doesn't mean it won't. Republicans have already moved ahead on some piecemeal measures. And House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he was "hopeful" something could get done by the end of the year.

Coming off a fiscal battle that badly damaged the Republican brand, there is, arguably, more political incentive for Boehner to act on immigration than there has been in the past. Republicans need to repair their image. Helping pass broadly popular reforms is one way to do that.

But there isn't much time left on the legislative calendar this year, and it's not clear whether Boehner will bring immigration to a vote before the year is up. But this much we do know: Every day that goes by makes it increasingly difficult to pass new immigration laws.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
Play Videos
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Learn to make this twice-baked cookie
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
Play Videos
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
The art of tortilla-making
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Cool off with sno-balls, a New Orleans treat
Next Story
Sean Sullivan · October 24, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.