Contrary to news reports, comprehensive immigration reform is not splintering the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, tells Newsmax TV.
"It's bizarre. I don't find it to be dividing the party," Priebus tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "What you have is a consensus in the party that we need immigration reform, and everyone agrees on it."
He notes how the issue has brought together members of the party with such divergent views as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
"Now, we know that Rand Paul's version of what that looks like is going to be different than Lindsey Graham's, but you do have consensus in the party that we need serious immigration reform," Priebus said.
In June, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote that was backed by 14 Republicans. It includes provisions for a pathway to citizenship and increased border security.
The vote, which came on legislation introduced by the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators in April, sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
But the GOP-controlled House has said that it will not vote on such a huge Senate bill, opting instead to address immigration reform through individual pieces of legislation.
And House Speaker John Boehner, who vowed that the lower chamber would not take an "Obamacare-like" approach to immigration reform, has pledged to not bring any such legislation to the floor unless it has the support of most of his party's members.
Republicans have consistently attacked the Senate bill, saying it amounts to little more than amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, that it does little to strengthen the nation's borders, and that the Senate Democratic leadership was rushing complex legislation into law.
Priebus says he is not sure what form any final legislation would take, but it should address such issues as tougher border security, worker visas – an enhanced E-Verify system — and a discussion on the legalization of people who are already here.
"Maybe not necessarily citizenship, but certainly a good, strong debate over the issue of legalization, and most people in the party are ready for that conversation."
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