House Speaker John Boehner said he won’t bring an immigration bill to a vote unless it has the support of most Republicans in the chamber.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, sought to quell any idea that he might rely on Democrats and a handful of Republicans to pass a rewrite of U.S. immigration law after a fellow Republican said that could cost the speaker his job. Boehner’s comments show it will be difficult for Congress to pass a comprehensive bill, particularly in the House.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, said yesterday that Boehner should be ousted if he pushes an immigration measure through the House without the Republican majority’s support.
“If the majority of Republicans in the House are opposed to the immigration reform bill, then if the speaker tries to shove that through anyway he should be removed from his leadership position,” Rohrabacher said in an interview. “He can use his influence to try and get the majority of Republicans on his side. He’s got every right to twist arms and use his influence.”
Boehner told reporters yesterday he doesn’t “see any way” that he would bring an immigration bill to the floor without the backing of most House Republicans. He said Republicans will hold a special conference July 10 to map out strategy for an immigration measure.
Boehner spoke on the same day the Congressional Budget Office estimated that a bipartisan immigration bill being debated in the Democratic-led Senate would reduce the federal budget deficit by about $175 billion over a decade and by $700 billion during the second 10 years it is implemented.
The Senate bill seeks to balance a path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants, sought by Democrats, with Republicans’ goal of tighter border security. Democratic leaders are seeking to pass the measure by July 4.
“Any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have the majority of both parties’ support,” Boehner said. He has said an immigration rewrite is a top priority for this Congress.
Under an internal House practice routinely used by former Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, the speaker doesn’t bring legislation to the floor unless most of the Republican majority support it. Boehner, speaker since 2011, hasn’t always applied the informal custom. In January, he relied on Democratic support to pass a budget deal backed by less than half of his Republican caucus.
Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat and a co-sponsor of the Senate immigration bill, said yesterday that the only way to pass a comprehensive measure is with bipartisan support.
“I hope that Speaker Boehner realizes the only way to success in the House on the same issue is on a bipartisan basis. If he insists on this being a Republican-authored and inspired program, it has limited chance of success,” Durbin said in an interview.
The Obama administration said the CBO analysis, along with last month’s report by the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary, bolsters its argument for changing the immigration system.
The CBO report is “more proof that bipartisan common-sense immigration reform will be good for economic growth and deficit reduction,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The nonpartisan congressional scorekeeper said increased tax revenue from new U.S. residents would outpace growth in the demand for government services. Republicans have maintained that the measure would be a drain on the federal budget.
CBO estimated that the legislation would result in about 8 million undocumented immigrants gaining legal status and add about 10.4 million U.S. residents by 2023.
Senate Democrats and Republicans are negotiating tougher border security measures to add to the bill. Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the measure’s sponsors, have said they won’t support it without more stringent border control.
Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota is among the Republicans participating in the talks. He said yesterday he was developing a proposal to create “metrics that verify that the border is secure” before any undocumented immigrant could gain permanent legal residency.
Hoeven said his proposal would provide $3.2 billion for resources based on what the administration says it would need for drones and other technology to strengthen the border.
That would be a “much more acceptable approach,” Durbin said. “We’re waiting to see if they come back with anything like that.”
Boehner said the Senate bill’s initial border-control provisions were “laughable,” echoing the stance of other House Republicans that border-security measures should be strengthened.
“We know that border security is absolutely essential if we’re going to give people confidence that we can do the rest of what’s being suggested,” Boehner told reporters in Washington yesterday.
The House has yet to consider immigration proposals. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is expected to announce a comprehensive plan as soon as next week.
The House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, is considering individual pieces of legislation. The panel started yesterday with a bill that would strengthen enforcement of existing immigration laws, including giving states the authority to carry them out.
That bill is drawing criticism from a Democratic member of the House bipartisan group.
“While our country demands solutions and leadership, Republicans are feeding the partisan monster red meat as if their calendars already read 2014,” Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said on the House floor yesterday, referring to next year’s midterm elections. “Do not push forward a bill that criminalizes every immigrant family and makes everyone think twice before they call 9-1-1.”
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