Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, had a closed door meeting with more than two dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wednesday, after which the leaders of the Democratic group said they felt “cautiously optimistic” that an immigration reform bill could possibly win support in the Republican-led Congress, the Hill
During the meeting, Boehner made it clear that immigration legislation would have to secure majority support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass in the House.
Boehner also reiterated his stance that he would not bring an immigration bill up for debate that did not have the support of a majority of Republicans.
Hispanic Caucus members were happy Boehner took time to meet with them, but were clear-eyed concerning the information they received.
“I can tell you that I left that meeting understanding that there needs to be a majority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., a leading immigration reform advocate who is finalizing a bipartisan proposal.
“And let me emphasize, a majority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats need to come together so that the will of the House of Representatives can be done.”
Caucus members are fully aware that Boehner is receiving major pushback from many conservatives who are against the legislation.
“I don't want to hurt him by saying I was pleased with the meeting,” joked Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla.
“So let me just say we're optimistic that if we all do our part we're going to get something done.”
“He made it very clear it would not be easy, and we know it won’t be easy,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif, chairman of the House Democratic caucus and a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight working on a bill.
Boehner left the Hispanic members with no commitment to support either the bipartisan bill or a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.
Members said the Speaker held fast to his public statement that immigration reform would go through committees in the standard order.
“He wants to let the committee process do its will and give the opportunity for the House to add its thoughts at the appropriate time,” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said.
“He didn’t want to make any commitments that would in any way prejudge the work of the committee.”
Overall, Caucus members held out hope that the meeting had advanced the chances of the immigration reform bill seeing the light of day.
“I’ll simply repeat what the Speaker has said before and he emphasized before: He wants to fix our broken immigration system,” Gutierrez said.
“I believe that’s what he wants to do.”
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