On July 10th, the House held its first Republican conference regarding the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. The outcome was encouraging. None of the representatives indicated that a well defined immigration reform action plan had been identified.
In a joint statement issued by House leadership including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Republicans referred to the Senate bill as “flawed” and pledged to continue on a “step-by-step, common-sense approach…”
In separate interviews, House members re-enforced the official statement. Louisiana’s John Fleming said that while the House would like to keep moving forward, “We don’t feel like we have to pass something in the next few weeks.” Fleming added that it's “100 percent unlikely” that any immigration legislation will pass before the August 5-September 6 recess.
Upon it’s return, Congress will confront the looming fiscal year-end when the annual contentious budget battle between Republicans and Democrats will resume. According to Oklahoma’s Tom Cole, “There’s no way you’re going to move this [immigration reform] ahead of that [debt ceiling], in my opinion.”
Cole added that most House Republicans are highly skeptical of the White House’s intentions and do not believe that the lax enforcement provisions in the Senate bill, such as they are, would ever be realized. House Republicans are equally leery that any smaller bill they may pass to take to conference with the Senate would emerge as unrecognizable. Reflecting the House’s skepticism, Fleming said,
“Many of us have anxiety that those bills could be totally morphed into something very similar to the current Senate bill, which, again, I seriously doubt anybody in that room would vote for the Senate bill.” [House Republicans Are in No Hurry to Pass Immigration Reform, by Alexis Levinson, Daily Caller, July 10, 2013]
Tom Cotton, who represents Arkansas’ 4th District, summed up House opinion in his Wall Street Journal op-ed titled It’s the House Bill or Nothing on Immigration. In his closing paragraph, Cotton predicted that if the Senate insists on legalization-first, no legislation will pass Congress. Gang of 8 leader Chuck Schumer is on record that without a path to citizenship, Democrats will not support any House bill.
Schumer’s exact words indicate that a congressional gridlock on immigration is inevitable. A week ago, Schumer told The Hill reporter Mike Lillis:
“There's got to be a path to citizenship, and I don't think you can get Democrats to vote for things without a path to citizenship. It was our bottom line from the beginning."
Despite all the positive signs coming from the House suggesting that immigration reform is unlikely, the words of New York Yankee Hall of Fame great Yogi Berra still echo in my mind. As Berra said referring to the outcome of baseball pennant races still in progress: “It ain’t over until it’s over.”