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In East Room event, Obama jumps into immigration reform Thursday. Does this mean it's dead or alive?


Earlier this year, immigration reform leaders in the U.S. House like Republican Mario Diaz-Balart wanted the president to keep quiet about the issue as they grappled with it.

But they grappled. And they grappled. And they grappled.

And still there is no bill (but there is no shortage of finger-pointing). But there is a lot of fear among Republicans.

Many watched what happened to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio when he helped craft and pass a bipartisan immigration-reform bill in the Senate, only to have the tea party and right-wing media elite tear him up.

Now the president is ready to put his weight behind the issue and plans to hold a 10:35 a.m. East Room address calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

Two initial takeaways about the politics of it all:

1) The president wants to make good on his campaign promise to get it done, and this is a chance to work with the House.

2) The president knows the House won't pass it. So he wants the proverbial cat to die on their doorstep. And he wants Hispanics to know where the body lies.

Immigration-reform advocates and some conservatives keep insisting that there is some momentum behind the issue in the House. But it stalled weeks, if not months ago, there. It can always start up again.

But now, rather than talk about proposals, Republicans have been essentially pre-blaming Obama for making the issue tougher in the House due to the just-ended hostilities over Obamacare, the budget, the nation's debt and the partial government shutdown, which damaged the GOP in public polls.

“I think immigration reform is harder to achieve today than it was three weeks ago because of what happened here,” Rubio said on Fox News Sunday.

“The president has undermined this effort, absolutely, because of the way he has behaved over the last three weeks,” he said Rubio. “This notion that they’re going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration is much more difficult to do…because of the way the president has behaved towards his opponents over the last three weeks.”

One House immigration leader, Idaho Republican Raul Labrador, quit bipartisan talks months ago. Now he says he suspects Obama will use the issue against the GOP.

 “If the president is going to show the same kind of good faith effort that he’s shown over the last couple of weeks, then I think it would be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with them on immigration,” Labrador said recently according to

“And I’m a proponent of immigration reform. So, I think what he has done over the last two and a half weeks – he’s trying to destroy the Republican Party. And I think that anything that we do right now with this president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind, which is to destroy the Republican Party and not get good policies.”

But with the Republican brand tarnished and polls showing the GOP is more likely to be viewed as too extreme or unwilling to compromise, it's unclear how effective the message might be -- especially when it's Republicans who are more likely to vote against immigration-reform plans than Democrats.

Obama's plan: Sound reasonable.

One White House official described tomorrow's event this way:

"Tomorrow at 10:35AM ET the President will deliver a statement in the East Room calling on Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform. Commonsense immigration is good for the country and it’s the right thing to do.  It will grow the economy, reduce the deficit, and has broad support from both democrats and republicans, business and labor, as well as law enforcement and faith leaders.  The President has made clear the key principles that must be a part of any bipartisan, commonsense effort, including continuing to strengthen border security, creating an earned path to citizenship, holding employers accountable, and bringing our immigration system into the 21st century.  He will urge that Congress take up this issue in a bipartisan way."