Most Republicans in the U.S. House oppose moving forward on immigration legislation even with wide support among lawmakers for a framework drafted by the party’s leaders, said a House Republican working on the issue.
“That’s still an uphill battle,” Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who has spent many of his 11 years in the House working on immigration policy, said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington.
Diaz-Balart, 52, said most opposition comes from Republicans wary of overshadowing the party’s election-year message to repeal or revise President Barack Obama’s health-care law. Others don’t trust Obama to implement border security, he said.
Still, bipartisan conversations are taking place behind closed doors. Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have met on the topic, said Kevin Seifert, a Ryan spokesman.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Jan. 29 that she and House Speaker John Boehner spoke about immigration ahead of a Republican retreat last week where the party discussed the immigration framework.
Diaz-Balart praised Obama for lowering the “emotional decibels” last week, when he said he’d be willing to consider a House plan that stopped short of granting a path to citizenship to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
“It’s the right tone,” Diaz-Balart said. “You have to lower the rhetoric, lower the tone, lower the emotional decibels. And I think he’s been doing that recently on immigration reform.”
Boehner’s immigration principles, released during a three- day policy retreat in Cambridge, Maryland, would legalize undocumented workers in the U.S. and grant citizenship to those who were brought to this country as children. The framework also stipulates that House Republicans won’t negotiate over a Senate bill, which passed that chamber with bipartisan support last year, that would grant a path to citizenship.
Boehner told reporters today that “members seemed to be rather supportive” of the draft principles on immigration and that no decision has been made on timing of legislation.
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