Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2017

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On immigration reform, D.C. has a House divided

As the Senate tries to muster a bipartisan compromise on comprehensive immigration reform, inter-party camaraderie in the House is headed for a breakdown.

The House Judiciary Committee, led by Republicans, began marking up a tough, enforcement-first bill Tuesday while House Democrats stood outside in the rain, crying foul.

“We can’t pass enforcement-only bills and call them reform,” Rep. Steven Horsford said, flanked by a cadre of congresspersons and dripping wet undocumented immigrants outside the Capitol. “It’s time for the Republicans in the house to join us and stop fighting with the majority of the American people.”

But that isn’t necessarily going to happen anytime soon.

According to a report in Politico, House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that he would not try to push a bill through the House that didn’t have the support of a majority of Republicans.

His pledge to uphold the so-called Hastert rule — named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who first said plainly that he would only hold votes on legislation that had the support of “the majority of the majority” — potentially puts a serious crimp in Democrats’ plans.

To pass an immigration bill that looks anything like what the Senate is considering will likely require the votes of both Republicans and Democrats. But the Republican Party has not been particularly disposed toward many of the more pro-undocumented immigrant elements of the bill, such as a pathway to citizenship.

“The speaker of the House should be the speaker of the American people, not of one particular party,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a leading Democratic voice on immigration in the House of Representatives. “The fact is the votes exist in the House of Representatives among Republicans and Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform. … We should let the majority of the House, representatives who represent a majority of both Republicans and Democrats in this nation, do its will.”

Polls have shown that a very strong majority of Americans favor a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. But thus far, the House’s attempts to draft a comprehensive bill, which centers on an ad hoc group of which Gutierrez is a member, have not produced legislative language.

While Boehner has said and written that the House should pass an immigration bill, he also has been adamant that he will not pick up the Senate’s bill, expected from that chamber by Independence Day.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid maintained Tuesday that time will tell what the House will do more than whatever Boehner tells his Republican caucus.

“Concentrate on the Senate. Don’t at this stage worry about what’s going to happen in the House ... no matter what statements the speaker may have given,” Reid said Tuesday, relating for reporters a conversation he had with the four Democratic members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, which designed original immigration bill. “No matter what he has said, there’s going to be significant national pressure on the house to do something on immigration.”

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