As House GOP members met in the Capitol basement Wednesday to discuss immigration, activists marched outside with a message: the future of the Republican party could ride on their votes.
House Republicans met for more than two hours at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to discuss immigration. There was no consensus on anything but border security, but one things seems clear: a path to citizenship looks to be a tough sell.
House leaders told their colleagues that Republicans will be in a "much weaker position" if they fail to act on immigration. Afterwards, House Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was upbeat.
"We had very good discussions, very productive, a lot of participation," McCarthy said.
The man who counts votes says there will be a majority of GOP members who can agree on something. When asked whether that includes a path to citizenship or legal status, McCarthy quickly slipped away behind his office door without answering.
Central Valley Congressman Devin Nunes said he believes two-thirds of his House GOP colleagues support legal status for the undocumented. But he doesn't understand what he termed "infatuation" with a path to citizenship among Democrats and immigration advocates.
"I do see that they want to be out of the shadows, they want to live their lives," said Nunes, and they want to have their children "become legal at some point."
Vista Congressman Darrell Issa has supported a path to citizenship in the past. Outside the meeting, he said citizenship is not a one-size-fits-all answer.
"We need to have solutions to all 11 million people on an individual basis," said Issa, referring to the estimated number of immigrants believed to be in the U.S. illegally.
Criminals should be deported, Issa said, and there should be a discussion about immigrants without the skills to be "well-employed here."
Immigration was also on the agenda earlier in the day when members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — currently all Democrats — met with President Obama at the White House.
L.A. Congressman Tony Cardenas said the President and lawmakers agreed: the best strategy to get GOP votes on immigration reform is to get business leaders to make the case to Republicans.
He said it's not about "badgering people, it's just about reminding people."
Cardenas pointed out that Republicans "listen to and respect" the business community, much of which supports comprehensive immigration reform. The first-term Congressman said Democrats can "get all of those folks and organizations to talk to their friends and hear their side of the story." He said they need to engage the "3 Bs": business, badges — in other words, law enforcement — and bibles, the religious community."
Cardenas said the President reassured Caucus members that he won't sign any immigration law that doesn't include a path to citizenship.
Republican lawmakers said they don't expect the House to vote on any immigration legislation until after the August recess. At the GOP meeting, House Speaker John Boehner repeated his pledge to his colleagues that he won't bring any immigration bill to the floor for a vote — including one that might come out of a House-Senate conference committee — without support from a majority of GOP House members.