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John Boehner: man in the middle of immigration debate (Updated)

House Speaker John Boehner is walking a fine line in the immigration debate.
House Speaker John Boehner is walking a fine line in the immigration debate.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A House Judiciary Committee meeting was interrupted Tuesday by demonstrators as members took up a bill that would allow local jurisdictions to enforce their own immigration laws. The bill illustrates the challenges ahead for a bipartisan comprehensive measure — and the political challenges facing House Speaker John Boehner. 

The House is moving forward on two fronts: a bipartisan bill that has yet to be unveiled, and a series of tough enforcement measures working their way through the Judiciary Committee. Boehner is walking a fine line down the middle. 

L.A. Democrat Xavier Becerra, a member of the so-called "Gang of Seven" working on the comprehensive House bill, says he "really" believes Boehner "wants to get this done." But he cautions patience, saying "the worst thing" would be to push through a bill with backing from only one party.

Boehner agrees, but says a House bill has to be tougher on enforcement than the measure currently being amended in the Senate: "Border security is absolutely essential if we're going to give people confidence that we can do the rest of what's being suggested."

In addition to tougher measures at the border, Boehner wants more workplace enforcement. And he calls the so-called "triggers" — the standards of enforcement that must be met to set in motion a pathway to citizenship — "laughable."

Boehner earlier suggested immigration might be brought to the floor without a majority of the GOP in support. Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach labeled that "a betrayal" warranting Boehner's removal as Speaker. Boehner on Tuesday promised no bill will come to the floor without majority support. He set July 10th as the day House GOP members will debate immigration among themselves.

The Speaker also took a swipe at the White House and Senate Democrats, urging them to reach out to their GOP colleagues, unless they’re trying to stall immigration legislation to have it dominate the 2014 mid term elections. 

UPDATE: Also on Tuesday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued its cost estimate for the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, finding that the legislation would reduce the deficit by $175 billion in the coming decade and by another $700 billion in the following decade.