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High-Profile Probes Create Cooling-Off Period for Immigration Proposals

May 23, 2013
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IRS, AP and Benghazi investigations divert attention from immigration reform bills.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- The trio of investigations causing headaches for President Barack Obama’s administration have also provided a honeymoon period for the marquee element of his domestic agenda: revising immigration laws.

The congressional probes into various government agencies diverted attention at a critical time, allowing the Senate Judiciary Committee a respite from the spotlight as it reached critical compromises on the measure and approved it on a bipartisan 13-5 vote on May 21. The bill would allow the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization a chance at citizenship.

"It’s like magic -- you distract the audience while the real trick is being done -- and I think right now, while Americans focus on President Obama’s unending difficulties, it’s good news for the Gang of Eight working on immigration," said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, referring to the four Republicans and four Democrats who crafted the bill.

The dynamic is probably fleeting; the immigration measure’s path is likely to become more treacherous as the scandal investigations persist in grabbing headlines, the legislation moves toward a high-profile Senate vote next month, and skeptical House Republicans have their say.

That debate will take place while Congress is still raising questions about allegations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted anti-tax groups for scrutiny, the Justice Department seized Associated Press telephone records in a leak investigation, and the State Department initially glossed over the seriousness of last September’s attack on consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.

Interesting Timing

"The timing of all of this is kind of interesting in that it probably took a bit of heat off the markup in the committee - - that doesn’t mean the bill’s not going to face intense scrutiny on the Senate floor," Democratic strategist Jim Manley said.

"Regardless of all the so-called scandals whirling around, the fact is the immigration bill is about the only thing that’s going to get done this year," he said.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the group of eight that wrote the compromise bill as well as the Judiciary Committee that signed off on it, said the scandal fever that has broken out in Washington has "been good" for the legislation, lowering the emotional temperature that has surrounded past failed efforts to make immigration changes.

‘Open Process’

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RELATED TOPICS: Dairy, Policy, Immigration

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