Former President Bill Clinton is “bullish” that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform. Speaking to Alex Wagner on NOW Friday, Clinton expressed optimism about the legislation but suggested Speaker John Boehner would need to break the so-called Hastert rule to do it.
The former president believes there will be enough votes to pass an immigration reform bill, but asks, “Will [Speaker Boehner] allow a bill to be brought to the floor of the House that does not have the support of a majority of his own caucus, but clearly would get a big bipartisan majority in the House?”
So far, Boehner isn’t showing his cards. The Speaker said Tuesday there was “no question” that immigration reform would be passed in the House and Senate and signed by the end of this year. But he started walking that back on Thursday, saying “I don’t intend to bring an immigration bill to the floor that violates what I and what members of my party–what our principles are.”
Boehner has broken the Hastert rule three times already this year, in order to pass the fiscal cliff deal, Sandy relief legislation, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. Clinton applauded the Speaker for those votes, saying, “Every time he’s done that, something good’s happened….I think he understands that it’s an important issue for America; it’s an important issue for the Republican Party if they want to be competitive with all the young immigrants in our country.”
The former president also weighed in on the political climate in Washington, saying a fundamental shift has taken place in this country. He cited the deep division among Americans in the 1960s, culminating with a rash of political assassinations. He said that despite the turmoil, “political leadership continued to hold together…we passed the Civil Rights Act, a Voting Rights Act, an open housing act, anti-poverty legislation. All of it had bipartisan support….there was a political system that was trying to hold the country together even as we were dividing underneath.”
Clinton believes there has been a role reversal when you compare that environment to the political gridlock today, saying “if you look at the support, say, for universal background checks, 80%, 90%, the political system is more divided than the people.”
In the wide ranging interview, Clinton also discussed why he believes Republican efforts to suppress the vote backfired in 2012, and how he thinks New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s political strategy will play outside the Northeast. Watch more of Alex Wagner’s interview with Bill Clinton above.