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House Republicans Take On Immigration as Senate Moves Ahead

June 11, 2013
US Capitol   WDC 7 11

House Republican leaders are seeking to speed up efforts to craft U.S. immigration-law proposals as the Senate nears the first test votes on its own plan.

House Speaker John Boehner and other leaders have decided to focus on immigration before the August recess, three Republican aides said yesterday. The aides asked not to be quoted by name because official deadlines haven’t been set.

The Senate plans to take its first procedural votes today on a bipartisan plan that includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants with a goal of passing the measure by July 4 and sending it 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 strategist and former congressional aide, said in an interview.

House leaders want to avoid being pressured into considering the Senate legislation if they don’t have proposals of their own. 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.

‘Very Difficult’

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters June 6 that immigration is "a very difficult issue" and that he hoped the chamber’s Judiciary Committee will present measures by the end of this month.

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.

Obama will make remarks in the East Room this morning in support of the Senate bill, S. 744, which seeks to balance a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- a Democratic priority -- with enough border security to satisfy Republicans. Many Republicans, particularly in the House, oppose a citizenship path and are demanding stiffer border-security measures.

Boehner and Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who leads the Judiciary Committee, have said the House will take a step-by-step approach. The panel is considering separate bills to address aspects of the immigration debate, including the flow of agricultural and high-technology workers to the U.S.

Bipartisan Group

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.

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