House Republican leaders will seek over the next two months to catch up with the Senate’s effort to rewrite U.S. immigration laws, congressional aides said.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and other leaders have decided to focus on immigration policy before the August recess, according to three Republican aides who asked not to be quoted by name because no official deadlines have been set.
The Senate is debating a bipartisan immigration plan this week and leaders want to pass the measure by July 4 to send to the House. Unlike in the Senate, House leaders haven’t committed to advancing a comprehensive immigration rewrite.
“It’s very wise that House Republicans are trying to position themselves to try and not look like they are slowing down or stopping immigration reform,” Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategic and former congressional aide, said in an interview.
The last significant congressional effort to revise U.S. immigration law stalled in 2007. Republicans are trying to reconnect with Hispanics after President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the constituency’s votes in his re-election in November.
The Senate measure, S. 744, seeks to balance a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- a provision demanded by Democrats -- with enough border security to satisfy Republicans. Many Republicans, particularly in the House, oppose a citizenship path and are demanding stiffer border-security measures.
With budget issues and the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling probably taking up floor time in September and October, this month and July offer an opportunity for the House to produce its immigration plan, the aides said.
House leaders also want to avoid being pressured into considering the Senate legislation if they don’t have proposals of their own.
“The House remains committed to fixing our broken immigration system, but we will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes,” Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said in a statement May 23.
Boehner and Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who leads the Judiciary Committee, have said the House will take a step-by-step approach with several bills.
The House Judiciary Committee has considered four separate bills addressing aspects of the immigration debate including the flow of agricultural and high-technology workers to the U.S. The panel will hold a hearing on a fifth measure June 13.
Goodlatte hasn’t said whether his committee will consider a comprehensive measure being drafted by a bipartisan group of House members. The Virginia Republican said he will review the measure after it’s introduced.
The bipartisan group has been working on an immigration plan for more than four years. The group last week lost a member, Idaho Republican Raul Labrador, who quit because of disagreements over whether undocumented immigrants seeking legal status should receive subsidized health benefits.
Labrador, a Tea Party favorite, said June 5 that he opposes an agreement among the three other Republicans and four Democrats in the negotiating group to offer subsidized health care to undocumented immigrants with provisional legal status.
Labrador said while all the negotiators “acted in good faith,” he’ll probably oppose the group’s measure and opt instead for adding to competing bills that the House will consider individually.
“If we can’t agree on language on health care, then I think we have a long road to go,” Labrador said. “I am going to try to find my own way to reform immigration. I think there’s a better way. It has to pass the House.”
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