U.S. House won't follow Senate lead on immigration bill: Boehner (Photo : Reuters)
On Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner quashed any lingering hopes that comprehensive immigration reform could come to a vote in the House this year. However, on Thursday, Sen. Charles Schumer contradicted Boehner, saying he believes the reform bill could still pass this year.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Speaker Boehner reiterated his opposition to the Senate-passed immigration bill, saying that the House would not vote on it, CNN confirms. Then he went a step further, saying, "I'll make clear we have no intention ever of going to conference on the Senate bill."
Last week, GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the third ranking House Republican, told immigration reform advocates that there was not enough time left for the House to take up the immigration reform bill this year. The House is in session for 15 more days this year.
After Romney lost the presidential election in 2012, with Hispanic voters voting mostly for President Obama, Boehner said it was time for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I'm confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all," Boehner said in an interview the week after the election.
Boehner now says he still wants to pass immigration reform, but that any legislation has to be passed in a piecemeal fashion.
"I want us to deal with this issue but I want to deal with it in a common sense step by step way," he said Wednesday.
A series of immigration reform bills, which are mostly focused on border security, have passed the House Judiciary Committee. However, GOP members have not scheduled any floor votes on the bills.
A large portion of House conservatives are staunchly against any measure that gives a path to citizenship or legal status for the 11 million undocumented workers who currently reside in the U.S. So far, none of the House GOP proposals address the issue, but conservatives are worried that any negotiations could put pressure on House Republicans to deal with citizenship proposals.
Boehner reassured his conservative cohorts that they will not have to worry about dealing with the citizenship issue any time soon.
"This is about trying to do this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb," Boehner said, adding that immigration reform is too complicated to rush.
"There are hundreds of issues involved in dealing with immigration reform, and we've got to deal with these in a common sense way where our members understand what we're doing and their constituents understand."
Sen. Schumer (D-NY) strongly disagrees with Boehner's contention that the quick passage of immigration reform is out of the question.
Schumer said on Thursday that he'd bet "quite a bit" that comprehensive immigration reform could pass Congress, and that it could still happen this year, the Washington Times reports.
"I still think it's possible this year," he said at the Washington Ideas Forum hosted by The Atlantic. "But if it's not, I think we have a real good chance to do it in the first half of next year. ... If I had to bet money, we're going to have an immigration reform bill on the president's desk."
Schumer was part of a bipartisan group that wrote the bill that passed the Senate earlier this year, which gives a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Senate bill also reforms the legal immigration system to let in more foreigners based on job skills or family connections.
On Wednesday, Schumer said in a statement that he thought the GOP-led House would "come to its senses and realize that we have to fix our immigration system in a bipartisan way."