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The Rubio-Coons AGREE Act: Obama's nightmare?


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The Rubio-Coons AGREE Act: Obama's nightmare?


On its face, the bill crafted by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) looks modest enough. The aptly-named AGREE (American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment, and Entrepreneurship) Act takes parts of job-growth proposals from both sides of the aisle with wide bipartisan support and rolls them into one proposal. The two eliminated those components that create controversy, so that this Congress can act at least incrementally to improve the economic climate for job creators while larger reform efforts collide on Capitol Hill.

The incremental approach on policy actually is modest, if also effective and impactful. But the effect of the AGREE Act on larger political strategies is anything but modest. Rubio and Coons have basically challenged Harry Reid to get something accomplished — and that runs headlong into Barack Obama’s election strategy. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I write that the entire notion of a do-nothing Congress is Obama’s best re-election argument. Will Reid accept bipartisan progress, or defend Obama’s re-election strategy?

“If we can pass something that is bipartisan,” Rubio said, “people will look to Washington and see a glimmer of hope. Maybe there is reason for optimism. …What’s holding back American creativity right now is the fear that tomorrow is going to be worse than today, and next year worse than this year.”

That, however, is the question at hand, and the AGREE Act is the test that might provide an answer. Will this Congress find a way to act on an incremental economic reform whose components attract wide bipartisan support – or will the politics of the Grand Reform Era keep it from getting a vote in the Senate?

It’s no secret that Barack Obama wants to position himself in the 2012 race as the man who can stand up to a “do-nothing Congress,” hoping to emulate Harry Truman’s surprise win in 1948. Majority Leader Harry Reid has stalled 15 House bills aimed at improving the environment for job creation as a way to protect Obama’s strategy and to force the House to accept the president’s second attempt at a stimulus package instead. The passage of the AGREE Act would undermine that strategy, as well as expose the partisan calculations of Obama’s jobs bill. …

“They’ve been hoping to run against a do-nothing Congress, so maybe they’re not excited about Congress actually acting on something like this,” [Rubio] said, adding, “There are things that are more important than someone’s re-election.”

This is a clever little trap that Rubio has laid for Reid. If it proceeds, it’s likely to pass. The challenge then passes to the House, which Coons probably hopes will offer some resistance in order to perpetuate the do-nothing meme. However, the AGREE Act is palatable enough that the House GOP should have no problem with it — and Boehner would jump at the chance to wave the bill as evidence that the House will work with the Senate on incremental reforms when possible.

If it passes the Senate and the House, then it will land on Obama’s desk with a thud. Would he find a reason to veto it? He might want to try; its passage would highlight the opportunity for engagement that Obama eschewed for his new class-warfare schtick and insistence on Congress swallowing Porkulus II: Economic Boogaloo in its entirety. But it would be very difficult for Obama to explain a veto on a jobs bill that passed the Senate, and a veto would make him look even more extreme when it stops widely-supported reforms from becoming law.

The AGREE Act throws a wrench into Team Obama’s machinations. I’d expect to see Harry Reid find ways to slow or stop it as quietly as possible — so it’s worth keeping our eyes on it.

---------- Post added November-17th-2011 at 03:08 PM ----------


The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a leading voice of Latino conservatives, commended U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) for introducing the American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Act.

The AGREE Act stems from areas of common agreement between the President’s jobs plan, recommendations from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and plans put forward by both parties in Congress and includes a provision which eliminates per country caps on employment based immigrant visas and increases the per country cap for family-based immigrant visas from seven to fifteen percent.

This same provision is included in H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which was passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee recently. H.R. 3012 was introduced by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and is co-sponsored by, among others, House Judiciary Chairman Lamara Smith (R-TX) and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

“The impact of the AGREE Act immigration provision is quite significant. It will go a long way to reduce the enormous immigrant visa backlog that exists for workers from countries like India and China,” said Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

“This is good news for high-tech American companies who currently have a very hard time recruiting and hiring professionals with advanced degrees from abroad simply because there are no visas available.

“H.R. 3012 will also shorten the wait for immigrant visas for people from countries like Mexico and the Philippines who want to come to the U.S. to be reunited with their families. Under the current per country limits, individuals from certain countries have to wait excessive – and sometimes unrealistic – periods of time for a family-based immigrant visa to become available.

“While President Obama continues to demagogue the immigration issue for political purposes, Senators from both sides of the aisle are actively working on legislation that begins to put our immigration system in order. In the House, H.R. 3012 has brought together members of Congress that normally have opposite views on immigration, from a Lamar Smith to a Luis Gutierrez.

“The latest action by the House Judiciary Committee and now Senator Rubio’s leadership on the issue proves unequivocally that President Obama is not being fair or honest when he accuses Republicans of not wanting to deal with the tough issue of immigration,” he added.

“Ironically, it is the President who has been missing in action from this important policy discussion. We call on Republicans and Democrats in both House and Senate to support this important measure. And we encourage the President to stop grandstanding on immigration and get involved in the discussion of this important policy proposal,” he concluded.

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