Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | 2:08 p.m.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confidently said Tuesday a federal overhaul to the nation’s immigration system will pass out of Congress.
The bill passed on 68-32 vote in the Senate last Thursday, and now faces what appears to be a tougher path through a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Asked about the bill at a press conference at Mandalay Bay this afternoon, Reid said “immigration is going to pass the House of Representatives.”
“The Tea Party can’t stop it,” the Democratic Senator said of conservative opposition to the bill.
House Republicans have discussed drafting a series of their own immigration bills. That approach would differ from the Senate’s proposal that couples a route to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the country today with additional government spending to bolster security along the nation’s borders.
Such a dynamic could set up the immigration bill for a familiar route to failure in the nation’s capitol: the Republican House passes one bill, the Democratic Senate passes another, and both bills die.
But Reid characterized the Senate’s bill as a neither a Republican nor Democratic bill, noting that it was four Republicans and four Democrats who proposed the original legislation. For that reason, he indicated that he would not be open to the House’s “piecemeal” series of immigration bills.
“If they were smart, they would take our bill,” Reid said. “Our bill is a good one, and if the House is talking about doing it, which they have, on a piecemeal stuff basis, that just won’t work. That’s grade school stuff, and they’ve got to get to the university level.”
Reid helped move the bill toward passage throughout the spring, and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., also voted for the bill after pledging his support for the legislation last week.
Nevada’s two Democratic members of Congress, Steven Horsford and Dina Titus, appear ready to support the Senate’s legislation in the House.
It’s unclear whether Nevada’s Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck will support the Senate’s legislation or not.
Heck, representing a swath of Southern Nevada encompassing Henderson, Boulder City and areas of unincorporated Clark County, could address his stance on the legislation at a town hall meeting tonight in Las Vegas from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 7060 West Windmill Lane.
He will also speak to the Hispanics In Politics group tomorrow morning at 7:45 a.m. at the Dona Maria Tamales Restaurant in downtown Las Vegas.
With Congress in recess, Reid has also been making the rounds in Clark County, speaking Monday at a Culinary Union Local 226 event and rally celebrating the Senate’s passage of the immigration bill.
Speaking at the press conference Tuesday, Reid also addressed a gun background checks bill, the Express West high-speed rail project in Southern Nevada, and a proposed shipment of radioactive canisters from Oak Ridge, Tenn. to the Nevada National Security Site north of Las Vegas.
A bill mandating private party background checks for gun sales failed in the Senate earlier this year when too few Senators voted in favor.
“I’m going to bring it back when we have 60 votes,” Reid said. “It’s been stopped on that basis, and we don’t have that right now.”
Reid also said he met with President Barack Obama about the Express West high-speed rail project, noting that the project still needs a workable financing plan.
Reid also briefly said he agrees with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy opposing the shipment of more than 400 canisters of radioactive material from a DOE site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to the Nevada National Security Site about 50 miles north fo Nevada.
“I don’t want it to come here,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to leave it where it is.”