msnbc | January 29, 2013
>>> hi, everyone. i'm thomas roberts . topping our agenda today, just hours away from the president's first major policy speech of his second term, the white house and congress both jockeying for control in the immigration debate . at this moment, the president on air force one, winging his way to las vegas , where he's going to use the bully pulpit to get on record with his own vision for comprehensive immigration reform . the president is expected to embrace the blueprint unveiled by the bipartisan immigration ink. just yesterday, this was a move designed to get the jump on the president's big speech. however, today, president obama will also reportedly call for a more progressive approach for dealing with the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.
>> there will be some differences between ourselves and the president, but i think we could iron out any of those.
>> i think while he will show this is his idea with where we should be, he will work with us to produce a good, strong, bipartisan bill. we cannot pass this bill if either democrats are opposed or republicans are opposed.
>> so where does this discussion really fork between 1600 pennsylvania avenue and capitol hill ? sticking point number one, the president favors a quicker path to citizenship, and not one tied to enforcement at america's borders.
>> before we can move towards a path for green cards , because citizenship comes after that. it's a path to green cards . before we move to a path towards green cards , there has to be enforcement mechanisms that are verified and in place.
>> sticking point number two, buzzfeed and "the washington post " reporting that the president's plan will also support treating same-sex couples in which one partner is an immigrant the same way as married heterosexual couples. now, that is absent from the bipartisan propose. and with so much to lose and to gain on both sides of the aisle, and with public sentiment supporting real reform, will the president step back and let congress take the credit for acting on immigration ?
>> there will be no immigration reform unless it's bipartisan, but if you want to talk about the president bringing us together and being a bold leader, in 2007 , when we tried to do immigration reform , he folded like a cheap suit.
>> all right. so, again, we are just hours away. let's dive in and say good morning to our tuesday political power panel. we have nia- malika henderson, national political reporter for "the washington post ." msnbc contributor, maria teresa kumar, also president and ceo of voto latino , and republican strategist, hogan gidly. it's great to have you all here. and a lot to talk about this morning. again, we point out that we are just hours away from the first major policy speech of the president's second term, coming to us from las vegas , 2:55 eastern time . maria teresa , i want t you, because politi co has the headline out, basically profiling the players in all of this. obama , mccain, rubio begin immigration dance. as we look at the u.s. latino electorate, 53 million people, 17% of the u.s. population , 10% of all voters in 2012 . by 2030 , 40 million eligible voters. the latino community is not to be taken for granted this time around. and here is where we have to figure out who to believe on this, maria trays a. because the president ran saying he was going to do immigration reform as a top priority in his first administration, it didn't happen. now the republicans are getting on board, and mitt romney was saying immigration reform would mean self-deportation, just 2 1/2 months ago. so who's to be believed?
>> i think the birth dapresident did try, and unfortunately obama care came in the way. the republican electorate woke up the day of the election and say, we do have a latino problem. and it's not a surprise that lindsey graham is part of the negotiations. his state is changing. he received a new congressional seat back in 2010 because of the growth in latino vote. if you start looking at where there's a huge population boom , in the next phase of the population boom for the next election, it's all in the south. so it's in their best interests for the republican party to ensure that they're seen out in front. because otherwise, they're going to have a very tough battle moving on, to win not just the senate, but also the white house .
>> so you talk about the south. let's talk about kentucky. we get this from mitch mcconnell and his statement on this. take a listen, "when the president addresses this issue today, i hope he will take a bipartisan approach, rather than delivering another bipartisan speech." we know that this is going to be a pretty progressive speech. the president is really going to swing for the fences here.
>> yeah, he is. but, look, he's punted to congress on several big issues. this is no different. of course, he has a plan that if the senate goes down, the house goes down. and obviously, he'll put forth his plan, that's fine. i think from a strategical standpoint, republicans need to be a little bit concerned and a little bit leery here of what we have moving forward. absolutely, we need border security . and absolutely, we need to control the border. but i don't think, personally, it should be tethered to an overall immigration plan, because the rhetoric around border security , inevitably, will create a rift or ridge between us and the hispanic community. i think we should diverge, take two different bills, talk about the issues separately. i understand for a lot of republicans , it's a nonstarter unless we talk about border security first. i'm all for border security . but a lot of americans remember ronald reagan doing the dieal with amnesty and on the backside, border security . the amnesty came, but the border security never did. and i think now the situation is thus. we cannot be more adamant about making sure our border is secure. but we need to talk about a reasonable, rational way to let these these people in this country, assimilate into this culture, more than they already have, but as more citizen for this country. and to do anything but that right now creates a horrible position for republicans moving forward in any national or local election .
>> hogahogan, you bring up the rhetoric. let's talk more about that, nia- malika . i want to play for everybody the rhetoric coming from the right a about the word amnesty . take a listen.
>> no one should expect the members of the senate are just going to rubber stamp what a group have meant and decided.
>> what heightens my concern is that we have history as a guide and history suggests this brand of so-called comprehensive immigration reform , this promise of enforcement, as long as we have an amnesty , all of those things put together, is a recipe for failure.
>> so nia- malika , in washington right now, a lot of people, some would think the president has the midas touch . people on the right think that they're going to recoil from that touch. how much does the president really hover over doing, overall, immigration reform . or does he need to take congress really take the lead on this?
>> i think he has historically let congress take the lead on things, as hogan just said. he has punted on a lot of these issues, from health care to other big plans. he has put sort of a guiding framework out there, but not necessarily a lot of meat on the bones. i think we'll have to see today what exactly he says in this speech. it does seem like he is for a quicker path to citizenship. hogan actually made the case that i think obama will make today. and that is, quirk quicker path to citizenship and not necessarily tied to border enforcement. you have had the president make these speeches that talks about border enforcement and says that republicans keep moving the goalpost in terms of what qualifies for the requisite amount of border control and enforcement. so i think we'll have to see. all of these men that are involved in these negotiations are looking for a legacy or are looking for some credit. i think the republicans are obviously saying, it's obama who's not being bipartisan and we'll have to see what he does today and what his plans are.
>> anti- immigration groups are already slamming the bipartisan senate reform, calling it as amnesty . again, this is bipartisan, the immigration ink, they got together to put forth a plan to introduce before the president's big speech but they're already getting slammed for it. hogan, go ahead.
>> oh, yeah. no, they are getting slammed. i do want to warn republicans here. i mean, there are a lot of issues at play with immigration . there are many, many layers. but if we do come on board and we do support forms of not amnesty , but earnesty, the way you earn your way into this country, i think would be a better way to phrase it, if we do that, it's not somehow magically going to give us 60 to 70% of the latino vote. we're behind the eight ball with that vote right now. we've got to do more than just pass some legislation. we've got to have some rhetorical victories and show the latino community just how much we want to make this country available to them and how they should assimilate into this culture. there are things they can do to do that. but to assume that we're going to all of a sudden get some huge swath of the latino vote, remember, after reagan granted amnesty , straight up amnesty , he didn't get the 30% of the latino vote. so it's not a pathway for us to get more votes. republicans need to be very cautious about that.