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Way Forward on Immigration Splits House GOP

Former president George W. Bush poses with a candidate for U.S. citizenship during an immigration naturalization ceremony in Dallas Wednesday. He urged Congress to reach “a positive resolution to the debate” on immigration reform. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Morning Line

“It is a non-starter. It will go nowhere in the House.”

“The bills will both deal with the topic of immigration. … That may be the only common ground they have.”

Those statements, and the dozens of others like them from Republican lawmakers leaving a private meeting on immigration reform Wednesday, should come as no shock to anyone following the debate.

The close of the two-and-a-half hour huddle made clear there is no chance the Senate-passed bipartisan immigration reform legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States would get consideration on the House floor.

And the splash of ice cold water served as a wake-up call for advocates who had hoped to see legislation reach President Barack Obama’s desk this summer.

The New York Times’ Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman drove home the point in a story Thursday:

Though they may pass one or two modest bills before the August recess, many members said they felt no urgency to deal with an immigration overhaul, with the fall likely to be dominated by fights over the budget and the federal debt ceiling.

Behind closed doors at the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner told the 234 Republicans that the party must come up with an alternative to the bill approved by the Senate last month or suffer political consequences for inaction.

The New York Times reported that “[e]motions ran high, with members lining up 10 deep at each of two microphones waiting to speak their piece.” And Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., even read aloud: “Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law,” a line from “America the Beautiful.” The Times said the lawmakers had mixed feelings about citizenship: “Some said they were open to a path to citizenship, or at least legal status; others said they worried about even going to negotiations with the Senate, where, they fear, any bill to emerge would constitute amnesty.”

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz told NPR the meeting was more like a “family get together” with lawmakers able to outline their perspectives, though lawmakers told reporters that members of the bipartisan group working to draft a bill like the Senate plan did not present their ideas.

Politico adds that after the meeting “[t]here was no real sense about whether the GOP will try to reform the high-skilled and low-skilled visa process, providing a new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants or how they will tackle the plethora of other issues included in the Senate bill.”

Also speaking up in favor of action was former GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chair of the House Budget Committee. The Hill reported that Ryan “made the case that the House GOP should take action on immigration in a way that reflected the party’s principles, Republicans in the room said.”

“I think our members are ready to tackle this issue. It needs to be fixed,” Ryan told reporters following the session. “There is an emerging consensus that our immigration system is broken, that we need to fix it, and we need to do it in a very thorough way.”

The Washington Post explores further Ryan’s role in the immigration debate.

He’s among many Republicans who are urging a final measure that resembles the Senate bill.

At an naturalization ceremony Wednesday at his library in Dallas, former President George W. Bush asked lawmakers to proceed with a “benevolent spirit.” He didn’t mention that he considers the failed 2006 and 2007 efforts to pass a broad immigration bill as one of his major career disappointments, but his message was clear.

“The laws governing the immigration system aren’t working. The system is broken,” Bush said. “I don’t intend to get involved in the politics or the specifics of policy but I do hope there is a positive resolution to the debate.”

Bush’s words did not convince most of Boehner’s Republicans. Consider this comment from Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, to the Associated Press: “We care what people back home say, not what some former president says.”

After all, as the Washington Post points out, more than half of the Conference came to Washington after Bush had long left the White House.

As part of the NewsHour’s ongoing look at immigration reform, Ray Suarez spoke Wednesday with Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho about the meeting and what sort of legislation might ultimately pass the House.

Labrador said the Republican meeting was productive, and predicted that “six or seven bills will together deal with the issue of immigration reform comprehensively” and likely get votes on the House floor. But it is the Democrats, he said, who will have to compromise.

“The phone calls that we’re getting in our offices are actually 10-1 against the Senate bill,” said Labrador, who dropped out of bipartisan negotiations earlier this year.

Gutierrez sounded a more optimistic note than advocates who are fretting their hopes for a comprehensive bill that includes a pathway to citizenship will be dashed: “Look, we have got time. It’s on our side.”

Watch the segment here or below:

Ray will speak with Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., on the show Thursday. See our other interviews with lawmakers and track every piece of the debate on our immigration page.

The meeting of House Republicans came as Mr. Obama issued a veto threat in opposition to a new farm bill that does not include food stamps. The legislation also does not include enough money for crop insurance reform or renewable energy programs, the White House said.

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a cornerstone of our Nation’s food assistance safety net, and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances,” the administration’s statement of policy against the measure read, noting that “[b]ecause the 608 page bill was made available only this evening, the administration has had inadequate time to fully review the text of the bill.”

Politico has more here on the new measure.

It’s another element of drama to already frayed relationships between the White House and Boehner’s GOP Conference as they attempt to tackle big issues this summer.


The latest in a series of revelations about undisclosed gifts to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family came Wednesday, raising fresh questions about the Republican’s connections to a wealthy donor. The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman detailed Wednesday that Jonnie Williams Sr., the CEO of Star Scientific, a company that produces nutritional supplements, had given $145,000 in gifts to the McDonnell family and a company owned by the governor in 2011 and 2012.

Judy Woodruff spoke with the Virginian-Pilot’s Julian Walker, who noted the gifts have included a Rolex watch “reportedly given to the governor’s wife and then turned over to the governor,” money to cover catering costs at the wedding of one of McDonnell’s daughters, and airfare to fly the governor and his family to the 2011 Final Four in Houston.

Walker added that there was likely more to come. “I think there’s much more still to be revealed,” he said. “I think all of the folks who cover the Virginia capital are hearing probably on just about a daily basis, if not an hour-by-hour basis, the latest rumor du jour about this gift that has been unreported, this gift that has not been disclosed. So, there’s a lot of rumors swirling around.”

Watch here or below:

While guest-hosting for Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU Wednesday, Christina interviewed Helderman about the story.

And in other Virginia news, Judy will moderate a gubernatorial debate between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli on July 20. Send her your questions!

Desk Assistant Mallory Sofastaii broke down all of the races on the ballot in Virginia and New Jersey this fall.


  • The Senate failed to pass a measure to restore the 3.4 percent student loan interest rate, reversing the increase that began July 1. The Los Angeles Times has more.

  • The Texas House approved a measure Wednesday that would ban abortions at 20 weeks and implement tough new regulations on abortion providers and facilities in the state. The bill now moves to the state Senate, which could act on the legislation as early as Friday.

  • North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto legislation that would restrict access to abortion his legislature pushed through outside of the normal process.

  • Ro Khanna raised more than $1 million in his effort to unseat fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Honda of California, including a donation from Facebook’s Sheryl Sanberg.

  • Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Roll Call his aim is to improve his party’s digital donor base in 2014.

  • The Associated Press reported that 25 couples who filed a lawsuit challenging Illinois’ ban on gay marriage asked a judge “to rule quickly in their favor, saying a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down part of a law denying federal benefits to married gay couples creates a new urgency in the state.”

  • After saying that “Obamacare” is “barreling down on us like a jet landing in San Francisco” on the radio, New Hampshire GOP state Sen. Andy Sanborn apologized, but said he didn’t remember comparing the Affordable Care Act to the recent plane crash.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Boston to be by his wife’s side. Teresa Heinz Kerry is “improving” but remains hospitalized after what was believed to be a seizure over the weekend.

  • Gun-rights activist and “professional rabble-rouser” Adam Kokesh was charged with “possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms while possessing a firearm,” according to court papers, while his rommates claim a U.S. Park Police SWAT Team used excessive force conducting a raid on their house.

  • Politico’s Manu Raju details the difficult relationship between former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Montana Democrats.

  • A $3.5 billion midterm election? Reid Wilson explains.

  • Roll Call’s KyleTrygstad noticed that a Colorado Senate hopeful made the rounds in Washington, but didn’t meet with the group that he’d need to boost his candidacy, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

  • The National Journal speculates that perhaps Sarah Palin is floating a possible Senate bid to sell her new book.

  • What do Republican Rep. Mark Sanford and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan have in common? Deep breathing. Salon introduces you to the “Buddhist Caucus,” sort of.

  • The Wal-Mart ultimatum to cancel three planned stores in D.C. if the ‘living wage’ bill is passed didn’t sway D.C. Council members. Once the bill is signed by the mayor, certain large retailers will be required to pay employees no less than $12.50 an hour.

  • On Thursday, Christina will talk with WAMU’s Patrick Madden at noon about the Wal-Mart vote as she continues guest-hosting for Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU 88.5 in Washington D.C. She’ll also discuss a new report on bullying among siblings. Tune in. Listen to Wednesday’s segments on reservation etiquette, airline safety and the interview about McDonnell’s troubles.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Gwen Ifill spoke with Dave Abel of the Boston Globe about Wednesday’s arraignment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the April attacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

  • In collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, photojournalist Larry C. Price and our own Frank Carlson produced this look at the child miners digging for gold in Burkina Faso.

  • Have you ever paid a bribe? Let us know.

  • Elizabeth Bennet’s courtship with Mr. Darcy, the author of “Jane Austen, Game Theorist” argues, shows that strategic thinking has just as much to do with marriage as it does economics.

  • Did you know that Nikola Tesla developed the idea for the smartphone (in 1901)? Science Wednesday rounds up seven other things you probably don’t know about the futurist.

  • Just how high is high-frequency trading? Simone Pathe revisits a 2012 Paul Solman interview to explain why the sale of early financial data — which Thomson Reuters partially suspended this week — provides such an advantage.

  • Jeffrey Brown spoke with Chinese poet Liao Yiwu about the poem that landed him in prison after Tiananmen Square, and his new memoir.


Simone Pathe and desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.

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

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