Just two weeks after the Senate received the 844-page “Gang of Eight” immigration-reform legislation, House Republicans say they will take a more measured approach, dealing with immigration policy in pieces in order to give adequate consideration to each part.
“To give amnesty to millions — without knowing whether some of them want to do us harm — is to jeopardize American lives,” Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, a key player in the immigration debate, said in a statement. “We should go slow before making any changes to immigration policy that don’t put the interests of Americans first.”
Even if the Senate passes the legislation crafted by the bipartisan group of senators led by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the House will consider the issue only “incrementally” rather than as a “comprehensive” package.
“The sentiment in our conference is that we are going to deal with immigration reform in pieces,” House GOP Conference Secretary Virginia Foxx of North Carolina told me last week. “It is going to be approached incrementally, not as a comprehensive package.”
On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte echoed Foxx’s view that most House Republicans want to deal with immigration reform incrementally rather than bringing a major package to the floor. That approach would give House members a better opportunity to participate in the process of crafting legislation than merely amending the massive Senate bill, he said.
“The House Judiciary Committee intends to examine immigration reform in a step-by-step approach,” Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We welcome the ideas of all the members of House.”
Goodlatte later told Fox News that his committee will take up bills dealing with agricultural workers and a proposal to make it mandatory for businesses to use E-Verify, a system to check employment authorization.
Another key player in the immigration debate in the House is two-term Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee immigration subcommittee.
A former federal prosecutor, Gowdy is known to have a “secure the borders first” attitude — something that puts him in the opposite camp to fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the Gang of Eight who sculpted the Senate package.
There still may be an attempt in the House to package aspects of immigration reform into a larger package as it emerges from the committees.
Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has taken a surprise role in the immigration debate over the past few weeks and given the high regard that the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee is held by fellow Republicans, Ryan would seem the best operative to secure House backing for a comprehensive immigration package.
“The Wisconsin Republican’s increased involvement in congressional negotiations — coupled with a visit [to Chicago] alongside Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez ... could serve as a much-needed spark to jump-start stalled House immigration talks, which have failed to yield a single detail after four years,” reported Politico recently.
But as popular and respected as Ryan is, the attitude at this time of most of his colleagues toward immigration reform is to deal with it in parts, beginning with border security first.
Were the Gang of Eight and a number of Republican leaders to get their way, Schumer-Rubio would be enacted in some form, and they hope the political issue that has vexed their party for years would presumably go away.
But based on the attitude of Reps. Smith, Foxx, Goodlatte, and Gowdy, it clearly is not going to be that easy.
John Gizzi is a special columnist for Newsmax.com.
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