House Republicans Take Foot Off Gas in Drive for Immigration Reform

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  July 1, 2013 at 8:55 AM EDT


Members stream out of the House Chamber onto the East Front Plaza of the U.S. Capitol on Friday after the last vote before the Independence Day recess. Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

The Morning Line

When it comes to the immigration bill, the game plan in Congress is hurry up and wait.

The Senate passed the so-called Gang of Eight’s plan last Thursday ahead of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Fourth of July deadline, but House Republicans have made clear they intend to chart their own path on immigration reform and do not appear to be in any rush to pass legislation by a date certain.

House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Sunday that Republicans would like to duplicate the bipartisan outcome that emerged from the Senate, but that the House version should reflect the fact that the chamber is controlled by the GOP.

“We would love to have a bipartisan group produce a bill, because it would help to inform the House, just like the Senate bill helped to inform the Senate,” Goodlatte said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But 70 percent of the Republicans in the Senate voted against the immigration bill. Republicans are in the majority in the House.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a member of a bipartisan group working on a comprehensive proposal in the House, charged that Republicans are not following the Senate model.

“What the House Republicans are doing is giving a Republican solution. And a Republican solution isn’t what we saw was successful in the Senate,” Gutierrez said on CNN. “What happened in the Senate was that Republicans and Democrats decided that bipartisanship was going to lead to a solution, that compromising was going to lead to a solution.”

Gutierrez suggested the decision for whether immigration reform passes or not will likely fall to House Speaker John Boehner.

“There are a majority of Democrats and Republicans that are ready to solve this problem. Will he allow a small group, maybe even a majority of his caucus, to control the debate and the future on this issue? If he decides to do that, we will then end in a stalemate and an impasse once again,” the Illinois Democrat said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted that public pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform would continue to build and Boehner will ultimately bring the Senate plan up for a vote. “Within several months Speaker Boehner will find two choices — no bill or let a bill pass with a majority of Democratic votes and some Chamber of Commerce-type Republicans. He’ll find that the better choice. We’ll pass the Senate bill by the end of this year even though most House members don’t think so,” Schumer said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Fellow Gang of Eight member Sen. John McCain said he was “concerned about the task ahead” of lawmakers, but the Arizona Republican added that he also remained “hopeful that we can convince our House colleagues” to move forward with a bill.

For Republicans in the House, a major sticking point is likely to be the pathway to citizenship in the Senate version. Goodlatte signalled that House Republicans might be willing to support a “pathway to legalization” but “not a special pathway to citizenship, where people who are here unlawfully get something that people who have worked for decades to immigrate lawfully do not have.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., added that House Republicans would also proceed at their own pace. “We are going to work our will like we have been doing for the past weeks. We have passed four separate bills out of House Judiciary and an additional bill out of Homeland Security. So we are making progress and will continue to do so. And I’m more interested in getting it right than doing it on Senator Schumer’s schedule,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.”

But President Barack Obama on Saturday told reporters traveling with him in Africa that the ball is “in the House’s court,” and he would like to see this done on his speedy timeline.

“I do urge the House to try to get this done before the August recess,” he said. “There is more than enough time. This thing has been debated amply and they’ve got a bunch of weeks to get it done and now is the time.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had a similar message on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal Monday, urging his fellow Republicans to get on board. Bush, joined by his immigration book co-author Clint Bolick, writes:

Here the GOP’s informal “Hastert Rule” requires Speaker John Boehner to have majority support among Republicans before he will bring legislation to the floor for a vote. That means an immigration bill will need a far greater share of Republican House members than the Senate version received (where fewer than one-third of Republicans voted “aye”).

This is a tall order. But it is one to which House Republicans should respond.

No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform–and leave in place a system that does all of those things.

But tea party activists disagree.

Politico reported Monday that tea party groups “are promising to spend the congressional recess reminding lawmakers who support the Gang of Eight legislation what the base is capable of. Think loud town halls, jammed phone lines and primary challenges down the road — echoes of Obamacare three years ago.”

Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, told Politico that activists are “more upset about the amnesty bill than they were about Obamacare.”

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., played political pundit, talking about what Republicans need to do “if they ever wanna win a presidential race” and saying she hopes the Senate Republicans who backed that chamber’s bill can persuade their House colleagues.

“We wouldn’t even be where we are right now had it not been that 70% of Hispanics voted for President Obama, voted Democratic in the last election. That caused an epiphany in the Senate, that’s for sure,” Pelosi said.

She said she thinks “there are enough” supportive House Republicans to get to the 218 votes needed to pass a bill, but: “The question is do we have to have these Pi r-squared mathematical formulas about what it takes to bring something forth.”

At a briefing in Washington Friday hosted by Bloomberg Government, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., suggested that pressure was supposedly off for House Republicans on immigration reform. Diaz-Balart is a player from the chamber’s seven-member bipartisan working group on the subject. NewsHour Politics Online Production Assistant Meena Ganesan reported on the event, which also included Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California.

“The assumption that because of the Senate bill, individual members of the House will feel pressure, that’s inaccurate,” Diaz-Balart said. “I think the real pressure is the pressure to fix an immigration system that’s broken.”

Without going into any specifics about how the newly-passed Senate version differs from the House bill, Lofgren admitted she could vote for the Senate bill while Diaz-Balart said he thought the group’s effort would be a better work-product than the Senate version. He suggested this still-unreleased House compromise would also be the only type of legislation that would pass both the House and the Senate.

The group has been discreet with its process, meeting at length for three years, according to Lofgren. “We’ve been careful because we wanted to keep the politics out,” Diaz-Balart said.

Lofgren also said Friday that a number of the bills they’ve begun markup on in the House Judiciary Committee have been “absurd.” She’s expressed outrage over Gowdy’s SAFE Act. Repeating a phrase she had used during the hearing on his measure, she said, “To make every undocumented person a criminal, that’s unwarranted.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, meanwhile, told Yahoo News he’s considered the fact that the bill is more than 1,000 pages. He said he doesn’t know everything that’s in it, and he’s unsure if senators do, either.

The Morning Line will keep an eye on Congress, the president and national politics through Wednesday, and then we’ll take a brief holiday of our own.

SCOTUS WRAP

At the end of a blockbuster Supreme Court term, Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal spoke with Margaret Warner to get a big-picture overview for what the justices have done this year.

“I think this term will be known for the court’s dramatic invalidation of a key section of the Voting Rights Act and for its very significant, but incremental step toward same-sex marriage,” said Coyle, whose book “The Roberts Court” came out this spring.

Coyle said the court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act was an “activist” motion given how much work Congress had done in reauthorizing the law in 2006. She also noted how frequently business interests prevailed before the Supreme Court this term.

From the segment:

MARGARET WARNER: So what — to what degree is Chief Justice Roberts shaping this court, and, if so, in one what direction?

MARCIA COYLE: I look at this court and on the surface this is a court that has five conservatives and four moderate to liberal members.

Chief Justice Roberts has a conservative majority. Is he moving the court to the right? Well, the court began moving to the right rather significantly under Chief Justice Rehnquist. And Chief Justice Roberts has a fairly solid conservative majority, except Justice Kennedy. Now, Justice Kennedy can move left or right in a very narrow band of cases, as we saw this term in equality cases, cases involving the dignity, the liberty of the individual.

And so I think Justice Kennedy emerges this term as being most influential.

The segment was taped as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday lifted its stay on the performing of same-sex marriages in California, clearing the way for gay couples to wed immediately. That major shift came after a judge in Michigan “put a state law on hold that bans public employers from giving fringe benefits to cohabitating, unmarried partners of public employees,” BuzzFeed reported.

Prop 8 backers filed to stop the marriages from moving forward in California, but on Sunday Kennedy denied their request.

Watch the SCOTUS wrap-up segment here or below:

Also Friday night, Mark Shields and Michael Gerson had a deep discussion about the court’s actions.

Gerson said it was difficult to pluck a single judicial philosophy from the term. “Sometimes, they deferred to political action. Sometimes, they aggressively overturned it. Sometimes, they avoided choices, for political reasons, I think,” he said. “But you do have a common outcome, which is really the strengthening of states’ rights in a lot of these cases.”

To him, it seems more like “a philosophy of tinkering.”

“Sometimes, they put their finger on one side of the scale, sometimes the other,” Gerson said. “It seems rather political and outcome-oriented. It’s not always judicial activism, but sometimes it seems like judicial arrogance. They’re intervening in a lot of different ways to do balance here, balance there.”

Shields said the Voting Rights Act decision is “a dramatic change,” especially since the act was reauthorized by such big numbers.

“15,000 pages of testimony [and] by a 98-0 vote in the United States Senate it’s extended, by 390-33 in the House — you can’t get 390 House members to agree on a Mother’s Day resolution,” Shields said.

As for the same-sex marriage rulings, they energize a “shrinking minority” of Republican base voters, Shields said.

“To the degree that that becomes the face of the Republican Party, when it doesn’t have a national standard bearer or a president, I think that’s a problem for the party that is seen as narrow-minded, that is seen as sort of mean-spirited,” he said. “So I think the other thing is, over the past 10 years, 15 years, more and more people, because of the climate, because of the acceptance of gay people and gay status, gay identification, have come out. And more people have relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and so they have a greater stake in this.”

Watch the discussion here or below.

LINE ITEMS

  • The president mourned the loss of 19 elite firefighters, calling them “heroes” in a statement issued after their death Sunday in an Arizona wildfire.
  • “Imagine what they will do to Barack and me if Terry McAuliffe loses,” Vice President Joe Biden said at a major Democratic party dinner in Virginia over the weekend. Mr. Biden said if Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wins the gubernatorial contest this fall, that would pull the GOP further to the right. Politico reports that Mr. Biden said a victory for McAuliffe would “send a strong signal to Republicans across America that there’s no reason to be afraid of these extreme guys.”
  • Mr. Obama focused on his climate change push in his weekly address.
  • NPR has the latest on Mr. Obama’s trip to Africa. The New York Times details the president’s visit to Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell. And on the NewsHour, Jeff Brown spoke with Charlayne Hunter-Gault about Mandela’s legacy in South Africa, and how democracy has shaped that nation.
  • Senate Republicans wrote a letter to the commissioners of professional sports leagues, urging them not to promote the Obama administration’s health care law. The NFL responded that it wasn’t planning on taking up the administration on its offer.
  • On the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, Jonathan Martin writes that Republicans are hoping to paint Hillary Clinton as old if she runs at the age of 69 in 2016.
  • The New Yorker puts Bert and Ernie on the cover snuggling while watching TV coverage of the gay marriage decisions, and the Internet freaks out.
  • Roll Call’s David Hawkings reports that freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., plans to introduce a bill to turn off the traffic cameras around Washington, D.C., used to nab motorists who speed or run red lights.
  • Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg. ‘Nuff said.
  • Reason #7,463 why we love technology: just try not to be mesmerized.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

TOP TWEETS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meena Ganesan and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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