Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 23, 2014

Carney: Obama Wanted the Leahy Amendment, We Swear!

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president has expressed “strong support” for a measure that would allow long-term, foreign-born partners of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American citizens to acquire green cards as part of a pending immigration bill. But the administration’s actions have demonstrated otherwise.

Carney, in his daily press briefing, said he wasn’t aware of any effort by White House officials to pressure Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., to withhold his amendment on the issue. But it’s clear the White House is willing to jettison immigration equality if it means the larger bill survives.

“I think the president supports that amendment, and he also made clear that he knows he won’t get everything necessarily that he wants in the final comprehensive immigration bill that he hopes the Senate will pass and the House will pass and will arrive on his desk,” Carney said. “He will push for those things that he believes ought to be in it. He thinks it’s important that we make sure that … everyone who’s engaged in this process understands that they may not get everything they want.

“He would hope that if it comes up again that there would be strong bipartisan support for it, you know, and we’ll have to see,” Carney continued.

Of course, if the provision backed by the LGBT community was including in the list of things Obama demanded be included in the bill, top Senate Democrats would not have opposed the amendment Tuesday in committee, which likely was the only place it could have passed. Democratic leaders such as Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York said in tense statements that they would not be able to support the measure if Leahy pushed forward with the committee vote. Democrats instead decided not test Republican threats of walking away from a bill many within the party feel they need to support. And it’s left Democrats facing the ire of gay advocates who have long supported them.

“It is deplorable that a small number of Senators have been able to stand in the way of progress for lesbian and gay couples torn apart by discriminatory laws,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement after Tuesday’s failed attempt at a vote. “We are extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people. We will continue to work hard to include bi-national same-sex couples as the bill moves to the floor and remain committed to the underlying principles of inclusive and comprehensive immigration reform. We owe it to the estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT adults and estimated 24,700 LGBT bi-national couples living in the U.S. today to get the job done.”

Now, Democrats are headed to the full Senate with a framework to the right of where the bipartisan “gang of eight” senators had negotiated. And it’s likely going to have to move further to the right to attain full Senate passage, which would not please those on the left, particularly in the LGBT community.

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