House Speaker John Boehner got a message of sympathy yesterday from an unexpected quarter as he prepared for a potentially bruising meeting with rank-and-file Republicans Wednesday afternoon to try to work out an approach to immigration reform.
“I guess I feel sorry for the Speaker,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters yesterday in response to reports that Boehner had ruled out House action on the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate June 27.
Just as Boehner was repeatedly thwarted by unruly House conservatives and Tea Party members on key issues including the budget and new farm legislation, Reid said, he is being forced by his members to disavow a bipartisan immigration bill that is widely supported by Americans.
“He’s not going to touch that,” Reid told reporters at the Capitol.
Senior Democratic and Republican senators once had high hopes of enlisting support in the House for the “Gang of Eight” legislation after they packed it with nearly $40 billion of increased spending for a military-style “surge” in border guards and aerial drones along the southwest border. The also included a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Yet prospects for passage in the House of anything vaguely resembling the comprehensive Senate-passed bill now seems remote at best. House Republicans for the most part are insisting on a piecemeal approach that doesn’t include a path to citizenship or “amnesty.” House committees have already passed four separate hardline immigration bills and a debate on border security is expected later this month.
“I’ve made it clear and I’ll make it clear again, the House does not intend to take up the Senate bill,” Boehner said on Monday. “The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill.”
“The American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system,” Boehner said. “We’re going to have a conversation with our members on Wednesday on how we would move ahead. We have a broken immigration system, we have undocumented workers here in record numbers. We just can’t turn a blind eye to this problem and think it’s going to go away.”
Some national GOP leaders fear that House Republican resistance to the Senate billl will further alienate Hispanic voters and consign their party to minority status in the 2016 presidential election. Moreover, voters in seven GOP-held congressional districts would be less likely to vote for their current representative if he doesn’t support immigration reform, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling.
The number of voters who would be less likely to support their current House member ranged from 40 percent to 47 percent, while the number of voters who would be more likely ranged from 19 percent to 31 percent, according to Politico.