Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth says a comprehensive immigration reform bill will be introduced in the House early next week.
The Democratic-controlled Senate version of the bill passed by a comfortable bipartisan margin last Thursday after months of debate.
But Speaker John Boehner has made it clear the Senate version means nothing to the Republican-controlled House, where many lawmakers have described the pathway to citizenship provisions for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants as nothing more than amnesty.
The speaker has has also made it clear he will not bring any measure to the House floor unless it receives support from the majority of the GOP caucus.
Yarmuth, a Democrat, is a member of the a bipartisan work group crafting the bill. He says the group has finished a draft that Democratic and GOP lawmakers in the so-called ‘Gang of 7’ are reviewing.
“We still have the strong support and encouragement of Speaker Boehner as well as Leader (Nancy) Pelosi, so I think we’re all committed to perusing this process. And we think that ultimately the vehicle that we come up with will be the vehicle that ends up passing the House,” he says.
Yarmuth acknowledged the House bill will be more conservative than the Senate version, which added heavy security provisions before last week’s vote.
Even then 32 Republicans—including Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul—could not bring themselves to get behind the measure. And GOP lawmakers such as Kentucky Fourth District Congressman Thomas Massie appear steadfast in their opposition to anything that mirrors the Senate bill.
“I will not be voting for the Senate bill in its current form. In fact, based on conversations with my colleagues, I think I can safely say the Senate bill is dead on arrival here in the House,” Massie says. “I require three things in an immigration bill to vote for it: secure the borders, take away welfare incentives for people to come here, and stop rewarding people for breaking the law.”
The House coalition wasn’t served well by the departure of Republican Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho, who claimed not enough was done to bar illegal immigrants from receive health care benefits.
Yarmuth points out Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who was the party’s former vice presidential nominee last fall, has become an unofficial member of the group and has been constructive in his lobbying efforts for the bill.
Selling the draft bill, Yarmuth tells WFPL the ‘Gang of 7’ goal is to pick up at least 100 GOP votes. That plan could backfire among liberal House Democrats who felt the Senate version was already too conservative, however.
From The Atlantic:
If anything resembling the Senate bill comes up for a House vote, some Democrats might refuse to back it. Second, immigration advocates’ strategy now involves putting grassroots pressure on Republicans; activists will be harder to mobilize if they’re not enthusiastic about the legislation they’re pushing.
Now, advocates are focused on protecting their remaining turf. “There is a sense of militancy on the part of immigrant-rights advocates, that this is enough,” Matos said. “This was a bitter pill to swallow, and we can’t take any more.”
Several strategies have been touted as a way for a comprehensive bill to pass before the August recess, including a “discharge petition” that would require just 17 Republicans to join the Democratic caucus.
Beyond a growing bipartisan coalition, part of the pressure on the GOP is the reality of their poor showing among Hispanic voters in the 2012 presidential election. The threat that a legislative failure could result in future political loses is putting Boehner’s caucus under intense stress.
However, GOP lawmakers who represent heavily gerrymandered districts with few Hispanic voters may not have the same incentive as their establishment colleagues.
“Some Republican members want the border to be absolutely full proof and it will never be,” says Yarmuth. “So ultimately there are some members who are never going to be satisfied, but I think by in large most Republicans will perceive we’ve provided for a reasonable and strong border security.”