The inside story on Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s Oval Office visit

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Last Thursday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were about 15 minutes away from a vote on a resolution demanding President Barack Obama curb deportations when the Chicago lawmaker got a call from a White House staffer.

Please hold off the vote. Why not first talk to President Barack Obama, the staffer said to Gutierrez, according to sources familiar with the exchange. An invitation was extended to meet with the president in the Oval Office later that day.

The last-minute bid to quash a resolution by rushing House Democratic Hispanic leaders to a meeting with the president was a dramatic and unusual move by Obama’s team. But the White House had a fire to put out.

The Obama administration was scrambling to avoid a vote on the harsh resolution drafted in reaction to the deportation of illegal immigrants, with the removals growing on Obama’s watch.

Even though a resolution carries no force of law, this one was highly symbolic.

The White House, I am told, was worried that the storyline could end up with divisions between Democrats — rather than in this election year, continued GOP House resistance to taking up meaningful immigration reform.

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform package in June 2013. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, last year nixed ever calling the comprehensive Senate bill for a vote. But he has refused to allow a vote on portions of the Senate measure that could pass on a bipartisan roll call because he does not want to bring to the floor immigration bills that do not have the support of the majority of the GOP majority.

Gutierrez has been a loud critic of the Obama administration for the swelling number of deportations on his watch. He manages a complex relationship with Obama, who of course he knows from back home in Chicago — slamming Obama for moving slow on immigration, a friend-to-the-end when it came to stumping for him in 2008 and 2012.


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