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Party Leaders Say GOP House Members Won’t Consider Senate’s Immigration Bill

July 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
House Republicans met with Speaker John Boehner to discuss immigration reform strategy. GOP leaders indicated they would not take up the Senate-passed measure. Ray Suarez talks to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, both members of the House Judiciary Committee, about the options under consideration.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to politics, with another in our series examining immigration reform, this week’s focus, what the House of Representatives will do. Late today, GOP leaders said their members decided the chamber will not take up a Senate-passed measure.

Ray Suarez has been covering the story.

RAY SUAREZ: All 234 House Republicans were invited to the meeting with House Speaker John Boehner this afternoon, the topic, how to handle immigration reform.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, R-Texas: I think the leadership wants judge the temperature of the members in terms of, are they comfortable with this or not? And I do think again it’s going to come back to the centerpiece of security.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-Minn.: There is no conversation until we actually secure the border. The border isn’t secure. And the last thing we’re going to do is vote for a bill that’s going to hurt the middle class and steal jobs away from the middle class, depress wages.

RAY SUAREZ: The meeting came amid calls by reform advocates to take up the Senate bill that passed last month by a bipartisan majority.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The yeas are 68, the nays are 32. The bill, as amended, is passed.

RAY SUAREZ: That bill creates a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million people now in the country illegally, something Democrats insist is non-negotiable. The measure also calls for doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and adding 700 miles of new fencing along the southern border.

On the House side, Boehner has so far refused to take up the Senate bill. Instead, his Republicans are working on four separate bills, with a heavy focus on border security. None offers citizenship.

WOMAN: I am the future of this nation.

RAY SUAREZ: But the pressure to act is growing. A group of so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, held a mock citizenship ceremony today at the U.S. Capitol.

And, in Dallas, former President George W. Bush addressed a naturalization ceremony at his presidential library, urging a positive resolution.

GEORGE W. BUSH, former U.S. president: We can uphold our traditions of assimilating immigrants and honoring our heritage of a nation built on the rule of law, but we have a problem. The laws governing the immigration system aren’t working. The system is broken.

RAY SUAREZ: Back in Washington, the Obama White House released a lengthy report touting the economic benefits of immigration reform. It claimed the Senate bill would boost economic growth another 3.3 percent by 2023 and would reduce the deficit by almost $850 billion over 20 years.

President Obama also called in members of the Hispanic Caucus.

Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas voiced hope for a compromise.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, D-Texas: Like us, he realizes that that effort must be both a Republican and a Democratic effort. It requires the work and cooperation of both parties. This president is committed to working with not only House Democrats, but also House Republicans on getting it done.

RAY SUAREZ: But after today’s GOP meeting, Speaker Boehner and other party leaders issued a statement reaffirming they will not take up the Senate bill, which leaves the focus squarely on the next three weeks. House Republicans have said they mean to bring immigration to a vote between now and the month-long recess that begins in early August.

For more on the options being considered in the House, we are joined by Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez, a member of the Judiciary Committee and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force.

Congressman, welcome back to the program.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, D-Ill.: Thank you, Ray. Good to be with you this evening.

RAY SUAREZ: Earlier today, the president of the United States met with the Hispanic Caucus. What did he have to tell you about the future of immigration reform?

LUIS GUTIERREZ: It’s alive. It’s well. It’s broad. It’s expansive, and that he’s going — the support for immigration reform, and that he’s committed to getting it done and to working in collaboration with wide, broad sectors of American society to get it done. It was a really fruitful meeting.

We talked about that, about appointments, the Voting Rights Act. There were a series of issues we got to talk to him, first and foremost immigration, but obviously other issues that came forward. I thought it was a very fruitful meeting.

RAY SUAREZ: It’s interesting that you say alive and well, given that the versions coming out of the House majority are very different from what the Senate passed recently. Is there even enough commonality for the two versions to go to reconciliation? Is there anything to talk about?

LUIS GUTIERREZ: Sure. I think there’s a lot to talk about.

First of all, Ray, here’s what I understand and what is common knowledge in the House of Representatives. The fact is that a majority of members of the House of Representatives, unprecedented in my 20 years in Congress, a majority of members, Republicans and Democrats, are ready to vote for comprehensive immigration reform.

And all Speaker Boehner has to do is to allow democracy to reign in the House of Representatives, allow a vote. Take 10 minutes out of the schedule and allow a vote. Put the different options. And I assure you we will go to reconciliation and we will fix our broken immigration.

Dozens — Paul Ryan, member, significant member, prestigious member, a Republican, of the House of Representatives, he’s working. Many Republicans — there are many Republicans, men and women, that want comprehensive immigration reform. If the speaker would simply allow them to join Democrats, we could do the will of the people.

RAY SUAREZ: But the Republican-sponsored House bills do not include a path to citizenship. If you go to reconciliation, are the Democrats going to have to concede that point, or are the Republicans going to have to do what the speaker has already said they won’t: not vote for a bill that the majority of their caucus supports?

LUIS GUTIERREZ: And that’s what — that’s the kind of decision I think that Speaker Boehner is going to have to make.

Is he going to be a speaker that responds and allows the House of Representatives and the will of the American people to be dictated by a minority group of the House of Representatives?

Or is he going to allow the expression of the majority of members of the House, which is an expression and a reflection of the electorate?

Look, he’s going to have to make that decision, whether he is going to be the statesman and the one that is going to resolve our broken immigration system or whether — because what they’re saying, Ray, is, it’s our way or no way. Now, just think about it. The Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Baptists and evangelicals, Catholics, Lutherans, I mean, look at the expansiveness and the depth of the movement.

And everybody is making compromises and reaching middle ground, Republicans and Democrats. They did it in the Senate. Why is it the only body of people that can’t find a version that they can resolve around is in the House of Representatives? Why must the House of Representatives say no, no and no? Look, you’re either going to have compromise. You’re either going to have bipartisanship or we aren’t going to get anything done.

And I think the Republican Party really has to begin to understand they can be a party of provinces and regions and states, maybe some cities, but they will never be a party, a national party for the next generation in the United States of America, because, if they do not do this, they simply will never have the ability to be a party at a national scale.

RAY SUAREZ: Very quickly, sir, the clock is ticking. You have got three weeks to do this. Is that really plausible?

LUIS GUTIERREZ: Look, we have got time. It’s on our side.

We can get this done. The fact is, I’m going to continue to work with Raul Labrador. I’m going to continue to work with Paul Ryan. I’m going to continue. And they will continue. Luckily for me and for the immigration community, they’re going to continue to work with me. We’re going to get this done. And time is on our side.

RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, thanks for joining us.

LUIS GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Ray.

RAY SUAREZ: And now to Republican Raul Labrador of Idaho, who also serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, earlier today, your conference had a meeting, all the House Republicans getting together. What did the speaker have to say about the future of immigration reform?

REP. RAUL LABRADOR, R-Idaho: You know, the speaker just wanted to us have an honest conversation about what we needed to do, to hear what our concerns were about immigration reform and whether we had any ideas on a path forward.

We also had the chairman of the Judiciary and the chairman of Homeland Security present what we have already done in those committees and kind of give a presentation to the conference on what the bills that have been heard already are doing for the future of immigration.

RAY SUAREZ: Do the various bills coming out of the House majority, your party, provide enough in common with the bipartisan bill coming out of the Senate to go to conference? Is there enough for you to start conferring on?

RAUL LABRADOR: I don’t think there’s enough to start conferring yet. But I think line by line, we’re going — what we’re doing is a step-by-step approach that eventually will deal with the issue comprehensively.

So I think you’re going to see maybe two or three additional bills coming out of the House Judiciary Committee, and those six or seven bills will together deal with the issue of immigration reform comprehensively.

RAY SUAREZ: None of the Republican bills include a path to citizenship. And many Democrats are saying that’s their bottom line, that it’s got to be in there. Does one side or another really have to give on that major point in order to move forward?

RAUL LABRADOR: I think the Democrats are going to have to give. If we can meet them 60 percent of the way, 70 percent of the way, 80 percent of the way, and they actually reject a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, then they’re saying that they don’t really want to get immigration reform done.

There are so many other things that we should be talking about. We have a porous border. We have border security issues. We have people that are coming into the United States that we don’t know who they are and whether they’re leaving the United States. We have a guest-worker program that is not working. We have farm labor that it needs actually to have legal status.

There are so many things that we need to do. And if we get boggled down — bogged down on actually the pathway to citizenship, that means that the Democrats are not really serious about solving this problem.

RAY SUAREZ: Just a short time ago, Luis Gutierrez, your colleague, on this program said that if the speaker would allow the bill to come to the floor, it would pass and that both a majority of Republicans and Democrats would vote for it.

RAUL LABRADOR: Does he mean the Senate bill?

RAY SUAREZ: The Senate bill.

RAUL LABRADOR: That’s — you know, Luis is a great friend of mine. We have a great relationship. But he’s absolutely wrong.

There’s not a majority of Republicans, not even close to enough Republicans to get something off the House floor with the Senate bill. The Senate bill has been universally panned by the Republicans. We’re getting — the phone calls that we’re getting in our offices are actually 10-1 against the Senate bill.

I just saw on my way over here to the interview there’s a new poll that the American people support the Senate bill by 38 percent. I just don’t think that the American people or the House has enough support for the Senate bill. But, you know, I don’t want to knock what they did. They tried to do a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. They did what could get passed out of the Senate. And now it’s our turn as Republicans in the House to do what can get passed out of the House of Representatives.

RAY SUAREZ: Earlier on the program, we heard former President George W. Bush urging you forward in your work. Does he have much influence in the Republican Caucus in the House today?

RAUL LABRADOR: Well, I think you have to respect whatever an ex-president has said.

I think that I heard the same words that he said. And he wasn’t saying that he supported any specific approach to immigration reform. But I think he believes, like I do, that immigration reform is important, that it’s necessary, that it’s good for America, and that we should do something about it. And I think we — you know, we can move forward with something positive here in the House. 

RAY SUAREZ: Raul Labrador is a Republican from Idaho. 

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

RAUL LABRADOR: Thank you.