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Politics In The News: Immigration Overhaul, Budget Deal


A comprehensive immigration reform bill was passed by the Senate. But it remains stalled in the House, waiting for a vote. Now the House has gone home for the holidays but the Senate is still here.

For more on where immigration stands and a look at the new budget deal, we go, as we do most Mondays, to Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.


WERTHEIMER: Now, President Obama has made passing immigration reform a key goal of his second term. Is it looking at all likely to happen?

ROBERTS: Well, as you say, the Senate has passed it. There is some tiny bit of evidence that the House might be prepared to take it up and bring immigration to a vote or at least a series of small immigration bills that could then go to conference with the Senate. House Speaker John Boehner has continually said he does plan to bring immigration to the floor.

He has recently hired an immigration expert to come onto his staff, so that sends a signal. And we'll see, you know, if his newfound willingness to take on the Tea Party makes a difference on this issue as well, because, of course, that's where the problem has been, has been Republicans worried about their own conservative base in their districts taking them on if they vote for immigration reform.

So we'll see what happens in that wing of the party.

WERTHEIMER: Now, the White House is saying that last week's breakthrough budget agreement is a sign of things to come. There will be more bipartisan cooperation. Do you think that's realistic?

ROBERTS: The lion and the lamb lie down together. It's hard to believe. Look, yesterday, Paul Ryan, one of the authors of the budget agreement, even though he did appear with Patty Murray, his Democratic Senate co-author, said, look, that Republicans would demand something in return for raising the debt limit and that specter still looms and that vote's likely to come in February.

And as you said earlier, we still haven't gotten a budget deal through the Senate, so before the president starts thinking about great bipartisanship to come and a lot of action, there's still a Senate vote on the budget to come.

WERTHEIMER: The budget sailed easily through the House with lots of Republican support, but somehow the Senate, which is slowing everything down, suddenly that vote has looked like it might be closer.

ROBERTS: Yeah, well, the problem - there are three problems in the Republican Party in the Senate. One is they're still really mad about the change in the filibuster rules and are slowing everything down to show the Democrats how angry they are. Secondly, there are a bunch of Republicans in the Senate who are potentially running for president and they don't want to do anything that seems like bipartisan or particularly on a budget matter, where they could, again, alienate that base.

And thirdly, there are a bunch of Republicans in the Senate who have primary opponents who are from the Tea Party and on an issue that has to do with money, where they can be charged with raising spending, then they are afraid to do it. So I think it is - I think in the end that the Senate will get the votes, but it's no slam dunk.

WERTHEIMER: Well, so let's talk about Speaker Boehner. I mean he preached a real sermon to the Republicans in the House about how things were going to change, there was going to be more cooperation, that this was unrealistic, that the Tea Party was asking for things that the American people don't want. Was that just talk?

ROBERTS: I think he had had it, clearly, but it's still obviously a very potent force in the Republican Party. Look, the main message that others in the party are telling the Tea Partiers is don't distract from the bad news on Obamacare. You know, this is a gift. Don't mess with it. We'll see how long that works, you know. That's not much of a platform to run on, but, you know, you and I have been in the Congress as it's rushing to finish a great deal of work on Christmas Eve.

Not so this year. This year, you know, they're limp out of town probably mid-week this week with very little to show for it.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Cokie.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Cokie Roberts joins us on Mondays for political analysis. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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