House Republicans are set for a crucial conference-wide meeting on immigration Wednesday, with advocates from across the political spectrum trying to persuade the GOP party on how to handle President Obama’s top domestic priority. Party leaders scheduled the private session to determine a way forward on an issue that has divided the GOP. The meeting comes as lines are hardening on the issue following the passage of bipartisan Senate legislation, dimming the prospects for a final bill by the end of the year.
While congressional Democrats emerged from their own meeting Tuesday insistent that a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants be part of any House proposal, Republican leaders have also laid down more conditions in recent weeks. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday said that enhancements in border security must be “in place” before the legalization of illegal immigrants begins, taking a new stand on a key point of contention between House and Senate Republicans. Boehner has said repeatedly the House will not take up the Senate bill.
Leadership aides and lawmakers describe the afternoon meeting as a listening session where rank-and-file members can air their views on immigration and the approach the House should take. They cautioned that an immediate decision on floor votes is unlikely and is instead expected in the coming days or weeks.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Republicans in a memo last week that immigration bills could come to the floor before the August recess.
The committee proposals deal with border security, interior enforcement, high-skilled visas and a guest-worker program, but they do not address the question of citizenship or legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. They all advanced largely on party-line votes.
A bipartisan group is still putting the finishing touches on a long-delayed comprehensive proposal, and part — or all — of that bill could also play a role in the House, Boehner said Tuesday.