On Wednesday, Republican members of the House of Representatives met in a closed-door meeting to discuss the issue of immigration reform. According to news outlets, the results of the meeting were simultaneously disappointing and hopeful for the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform. On the one hand, it seems that as a whole, House Republicans have no intention of taking up the Senate’s bill, which would have been the easiest way for comprehensive immigration reform legislation to become law. While some think enough members of the House would cast favorable votes for the Senate’s bill to pass, it is extremely unlikely that the majority of Republicans in the House would vote for the bill. Because Speaker John Boehner has stated that he does not plan to bring up any legislation for a vote unless it is supported by a majority of Republicans – regardless of whether or not the bill could garner enough overall votes to pass – it seems increasingly unlikely that the House will not vote on the Senate bill. If the House is not willing to vote on the Senate bill as is, another option that could lead to immigration reform sooner rather than later is the House constructing its own comprehensive legislation. If this happened, members of the House and the Senate would meet in order to combine the two bills into one bill they both agree on via the conference process. However, Wednesday’s meeting seems to rule out this possibility as well. Reports of Wednesday’s meeting seems to suggest that the House GOP simply does not want comprehensive legislation, and because the Senate’s bill is so comprehensive, any House bill (or combination of bills) that was able to be combined with it would be comprehensive in nature as well. In fact, there are some within the House GOP that are very afraid of any legislation that could end up as part of a comprehensive conference process; some are going so far as to say they will vote down any immigration legislation (even enforcement-only) because it could end up becoming part of comprehensive legislation through the conference process. However, immigration reform is not doomed. While Wednesday’s meeting seemed to suggest that some House Republicans simply do not want comprehensive immigration reform, it also proved that there are many House members in the party who do want to see immigration reform passed – and many of those believe that in order for immigration reform to happen at all, it has to be comprehensive in nature. During Wednesday’s meeting, House GOP members such as former VP candidate Paul Ryan extolled the values of immigration reform. Speaker John Boehner also stated that the GOP would pay a huge penalty if House Republicans did not get some sort of immigration legislation passed out of the House, opting to do nothing instead. Likewise, when Steve King of Iowa spoke against the idea of passing any type of immigration legislation at all, he acknowledged that the response was not as affirming to his position as it has been in the past. There are other Republicans in the House who firmly believe that immigration reform must happen (though they disagree on how to implement it), such as Raul Labrador of Idaho and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. While Republicans in the House seem extremely unlikely to vote on the Senate bill as is, or to even construct their own version in one piece, many House Republicans do want to address the issue in a way that deals with all the aspects of the immigration problem – they just don’t want to do it in one bill. So what’s the bottom line for immigration reform in the Republican-led House? As we see it, the main takeaways are as follows:
- The House does not intend to take up the Senate legislation.
- The House seems to prefer to pass a series of bills, starting with border enforcement and security, rather than dealing with the issue of immigration in one comprehensive bill.
- The House does not feel the same pressure the Senate did to act urgently – it seems any major immigration legislation coming out of the House probably will not be passed until September at the earliest.
- The House does want to address immigration reform; it simply wants to do it in a way that is different from the Senate, and more decidedly Republican.
Daniel Watts graduated from Wheaton College in 2012 and is the G92 Coordinator. Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated. We’re always looking for new guest bloggers; please check out our Guest Blog Submission Guidelines if you’re interested.