From the AP/Washington Post:
Clinton’s top priorities: Gun control and immigration reform. Could she deliver on either?
By Anne Gearan and Paul Kane Article Last Updated: Monday, May 02, 2016 3:35am Associated Press,
(c) 2016, The Washington Post.
With Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign turning fully toward the general election, the candidate is speaking in increasingly strong terms about immediately tackling one of her party’s most challenging domestic policy goals: gun control.
Clinton says just as forcefully that immigration reform will be her top priority upon entering the White House.
Without a dramatic Democratic sweep of Congress, few Democrats or Republicans believe either of these giant promises has a chance in January. That puts Clinton in the somewhat tricky position of making promises that many doubt she could meet.
But the Clinton campaign believes that public opinion has shifted on these two nationally divisive issues, making them winners for her to talk about in the general election. There is even hope among some Democrats that if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee they could win enough seats in the House and Senate to put gun and immigration reform back on the table.
Privately, Clinton aides and allies are more circumspect, quietly prioritizing what is actually possible at the outset of a Clinton presidency – and which promises she would put on hold.
The campaign says there is no trade-off between immigration and gun control, and that she has not overpromised on either. There is plenty of time to decide what comes when, campaign chairman John Podesta said.
“That’s what the transition is for,” Podesta said, referring to the period between the election and the inauguration.
Clinton is campaigning as the candidate of continuity – preserving what Democrats generally see as President Obama’s gains and making changes on his domestic agenda only at the margins. She is also promising to fix and finish what he has left undone, and suggesting to different audiences that she could do so immediately.
Immigration reform, though anathema in the Republican presidential race, is still a better legislative bet than gun control, both Republicans and Democrats said. …
As a result, Clinton and her allies in and out of Congress are gradually building a legislative agenda that would focus on immigration issues in Congress while mostly relying on the executive power of the presidency to further gun restrictions that would have little chance of becoming law. …
She has been more specific about an overhaul of the immigration system at the outset of a Clinton presidency, promising to advance comprehensive reform that offers a path to full citizenship for illegal immigrants within her first 100 days.
“If Congress won’t act, I’ll defend President Obama’s executive actions and I’ll go even further to keep families together,” Clinton promised in January. “I’ll end family detention, close private immigrant detention centers and help more eligible people become naturalized.”
Clinton also has been mildly critical of Obama’s deportation program, promising to stop deportations of almost everyone, aside from violent criminals or terrorists. ….
Immigration and gun control are the issues she points to most frequently, and often with emotional stories and examples. …
Gun control and immigration met with interlocking fates early in Obama’s second term, when he and Vice President Joe Biden made a pitch for legislation strengthening background checks on gun purchases – and when the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators began work on a sweeping rewrite of immigration and border-security laws. …
Democrats ditched the gun legislation and pivoted to immigration reform. Two months later, the Senate approved the immigration overhaul on a bipartisan vote of 68 to 32. The legislation included a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. It never went anywhere in the House. …
Clinton’s allies agree that immigration is more ripe for change, particularly if Republicans lose seats. But opposition remains fierce among the House’s more-conservative Republicans. Hopes for approving some version of that legislation in the House cratered two years ago when the sitting majority leader, Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost his primary contest to an underfunded, little-known professor whose main issue was Cantor’s support of legalizing undocumented children who were brought into the country illegally by their parents or relatives.
Ever since then, conservatives have vowed to thwart any effort by Clinton to move a sweeping immigration bill through a Republican-controlled House next year.
“The American people would have an absolute cow,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., who defeated Cantor, openly laughing at the idea, because in most Republican districts immigration is a “70 to 80 percent issue” toward opposing any leniency. “I mean, it’s not even in the ballpark.”