Schumer: Cantor was obstacle on immigration reform
By Alexander Bolton - 06/11/14 01:13 PM EDT
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday said the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) shocking primary defeat will make it easier to pass immigration reform this year.
Schumer on Wednesday said he viewed Cantor as the biggest obstacle to immigration reform in Congress despite the GOP leader’s occasional lip service to passing reform legislation in the 113th Congress.
“Eric Cantor was never the solution on immigration, he was always the problem,” Schumer said. “Every time I talked to Republican members, business leaders, growers and faith leaders about immigration reform in the last several months, I consistently heard that the House leadership wanted to move forward but they did not have Cantor’s support.”
Schumer disputed the conventional wisdom that Cantor’s loss spelled doom for immigration reform.
“Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Cantor’s loss makes it easier, not harder, for House leadership to pass immigration reform,” he said.
Schumer pointed to a new poll conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling in Cantor’s district showing that 72 percent of registered voters support bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Nearly 60 percent of Republican voters said passing immigration reform is very important.
“Eric Cantor did not lose his primary [Tuesday] because of immigration. He lost it because he had lost touch with the people of his district,” he said.
Cantor’s victorious challenger, however, said immigration made the difference.
“Amnesty, at the end, was the clear differentiator between myself and Eric Cantor. It fits into the whole narrative that he was not present in the district, and not in touch with supporting the U.S. Chamber agenda,” Brat told MSNBC after beating Cantor by double digits.
Schumer argued that Republican leaders should follow the example set by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a co-author of the Senate’s immigration bill, who defeated a field of conservative challengers and avoiding a runoff in his Tuesday primary.
“The lesson Republicans should take from last night is that embracing and showing leadership on immigration reform is a far better path to victory than running from it,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made a similar argument on Wednesday.
Democratic leaders have been frustrated with Cantor for months because they believed his opposition to moving comprehensive immigration reform paralyzed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
They hope that now that Boehner does not have to worry about a challenge to his speakership from Cantor, he might put an immigration billon the House floor.
“It is time for the House leadership to declare unequivocally that immigration reform will be placed on the floor for a vote before the August recess,” Schumer said.