WASHINGTON–Mayor Rahm Emanuel was remarkably non-combative–totally silent on Monday– when Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform blamed Democratic-allied unions for the uphill battle immigration reform is now facing in Congress. While here, Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, visited with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office and attended a ceremonial swearing-in for new Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Emanuel was mum about his other meetings.
“They are the sticking point,” Norquist said about unions in a forum on immigration sponsored by The Atlantic and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Norquist jabbed at organized labor several times at the event–in The Atlantic’s offices in the Watergate complex here–and Emanuel let him go unrebutted each time.
In an unusual alliance, Norquist and Emanuel are both in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. At present, despite what Norquist said, it is House Republican leaders–not unions–who are the biggest obstacle to getting 218 votes to pass immigration bills in the House. While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform package last month, House GOP leaders–as it stands now– will be taking up proposals piecemeal–and only if they have the majority of GOP House members.
Emanuel, who once ran the House Democratic political operation–and was in House leadership–said when it comes to finding House votes for an immigration bill, “This is not really a problem” for Democrats. “It’s in the Republican party, it’s in their hands,” Emanuel said.