At the end of the 16-day government shutdown, President Barack Obama addressed Congress and spoke about what he thought should be the next item on the national agenda. In that Oct. 17 speech, he named immigration reform as one of the top three legislative priorities facing Congress.
In June, the Senate passed a bill that would make sweeping changes to the country’s immigration system. When the bill went to the House of Representatives it did not get put up for a vote. Some Republican legislators joined bipartisan talks to work through the bill, while others chose to compile a series of smaller bills in a piecemeal approach to reform. When Congress failed to agree on a budget, the government shut down all essential functions until a budget agreement could be reached. Now that the shutdown has ended, many hope immigration reform will return to the forefront of the national debate.
The president hopes that reforms will be passed before the end of the year.
“The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do,” Obama said of the Senate immigration reform bill. “And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it. Now if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear ’em. Let’s start the negotiations.”
Before the shutdown, House Republicans maintained that they would not pass the Senate bill unless a majority of their caucus agreed. According to ABC News, House speaker John Boehner has held fast to an unwritten “Hasten Rule,” under which legislation must have the support of the majority to be brought to the floor. Immigration advocates pointed out that he has broken his own rule several times with other legislation.
Before immigration reform is tackled, Congress must pass a budget plan. Part of the Oct. 17 agreement to lift the dept ceiling and reopen the government was that appointed negotiators design a budget by mid-December.