President Obama wants House Speaker John Boehner to take the lead on immigration reform, even if that means a piecemeal approach, believing that a more comprehensive White House plan would die in the GOP-controlled Congress, according to sources informed of the strategy.
“The president is giving Boehner wide latitude,” said a business leader who has attended several White House meetings where the president's team has laid out their strategy. “They believe that the only chance of passage in the House is to let Boehner write the plan and for the White House to offer support from the sidelines.”
The White House is so hopeful that the speaker and his immigration leaders can get elements of a plan through the House next year that they have been telling those at the meetings something rarely heard in public: Praise for Boehner.
“They have been singing his praises in the meetings, really,” said one of those at several meetings where immigration has been discussed. The source also said that of all the agenda items aired at the business meetings, immigration reform is the top dog.
The White House is also OK with the GOP's plan to break up the Senate-approved comprehensive immigration reform plan into five of six different bills dealing with everything from border security to the Dream Act. Most have moved through committee and Boehner plans to finally bring them to the floor next year.
Once passed, the White House will get more involved in the conference committee.
Wooing business leaders to back immigration reform has been a key outreach effort by the White House this fall, those in the meetings said. So far the coalition is a broad one supporting the White House, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform, labor unions, banks and manufacturers.
Officials said that former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta is expected to play a key role in helping push through immigration reform. His think tank, the Center for American Progress, believes that a compromise plan is near.Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.