California Rep. Jeff Denham is signing on as the first Republican among 185 Democrats as a co-sponsor on a broad immigration overhaul bill being pushed before the end of this year.
Denham said he expects more Republicans to come on board, reports The Washington Post
. However, he and other supporters have fewer than 20 working days left in in the current Congressional session, and House Republicans are arguing that they won't have time to debate an immigration bill and deal with budget negotiations.
Democrats have come up with a compromise bill in hopes of luring away Republicans and pushing House Speaker John Boehner into allowing a vote of the full chamber.
If Boehner refuses, Democrats are likely to blame Republicans for blocking a bipartisan immigration bill as next year's campaigns heat up.
The Democrats' bill adopts most of what Senators approved this past year, but adds a border security measure that requires a 90 percent apprehension rate of those crossing the border, while replacing language adding fence and agents along the border. It's a bill that chief sponsor Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida and other Democrats "figured Republicans could sign onto."
The 1,137-page House bill includes a pathway to citizenship, reports The Fresno Bee
, and other provisions that include an agricultural worker program and employment verification.
Denham, a first-term congressman, said the Democrats are also adding a measure that he introduced before that allows unauthorized immigrants to join the military to earn their legal status.
Boehner and other House Republicans said they favored immigration legislation after the 2012 presidential election, when Hispanic voters picked Democrats.
However, many House conservatives are reluctant to pass the bill, instead favoring small measures that could increase foreign worker visas or boost border security.
But Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said last week that the House "will not consider any massive, Obamacare-style legislation that no one understands."
Denham represents a district in California's Central Valley that is more than 40 percent Hispanic. His wife Sonia is a first-generation American of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent and says he and his family "have been talking about immigration for over a decade now."
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