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A long way to go on immigration reform

January 29, 2013, at 3:05 PM

President Obama embraced the U.S. Senate's bipartisan agreement for immigration reform as "very much in line" with his own principles at a major speech this afternoon in Nevada.

Said Obama: "The good news is that — for the first time in many years — Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together."

The speech comes as both parties have a political interest in passing a bill — for President Obama and Democrats, it's delivering on a campaign promise made four years ago; for Republicans, it's to avoid again losing the Latino vote by a lopsided 71 percent to 27 percent margin.

Senate leaders suggested a bill could reach President Obama's desk by late spring or early summer.

What could go wrong?

For starters, immigration reform efforts in 2006 and again in 2009 were led by many of the same senators who announced their "major breakthrough" yesterday. And the bills put forth in those efforts look eerily similar to the framework embraced by President Obama today.

As Alex Altman notes, the bipartisan announcement "carried a whiff of Groundhog Day."

In fact, the same forces which doomed those past efforts are still very much with lawmakers today: House Republicans still worry about primary challenges in the midterm elections, business and labor interests still clash over their priorities and Latinos worry about an unclear path to citizenship with too many preconditions.

Another major obstacle to passage, as always, is the House of Representatives. Will Speaker John Boehner buck the Hastert rule once again to allow legislation that might not have the backing of a majority of Republicans to reach the floor?

National Journal notes that more than half of all GOP-controlled House members have "no natural pressure groups" for immigration reform in their districts, underscoring just how tough a sell immigration reform may be in the House.

As with all legislation — and politics — the devil is in the details. Despite the good bipartisan feelings towards immigration reform so far, those details could derail the effort once again.

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