House Speaker John Boehner slammed the door on comprehensive immigration reform this week, saying House action on the bill already passed by the Senate is “not going to happen.” That's not stopping a pair of California Republicans from lobbying fellow GOP members on the issue.
Speaker Boehner repeated his stance that the House GOP would work on a "common sense, step-by-step" approach to immigration reform. He said he had "no intention of ever going" to a conference committee to reconcile whatever measures the House passes with the 1,300-page Senate bill.
Instead, Boehner said the House GOP would work on " a set of principles" that will help "guide" the GOP as it deals with the issue. He did not mention the piecemeal immigration bills put forth by House Republicans.
That hasn’t discouraged Central Valley GOP members Jeff Denham and David Valadao.
Both Congressmen are in heavily Latino districts. Both are co-sponsors of the Democrats' immigration bill, which is based on the Senate bill that passed the Judiciary Committee and includes the House version of a border security provision. In fact, Denham and Valadao are two of the three GOP members who back HR-15.
Denham said he has convinced three more Republicans to back HR-15. The challenge, he says, is that health care, the fiscal crisis and a farm bill have taken precedence on Capitol Hill. He says any issue that does not have an exact timeline always gets moved. "Immigration is one of those issues," he said. "That’s one of the things that makes it difficult."
The duo is "whipping" the House floor, talking to members during votes, pushing HR-15. But Valadao said that's a "tough jump" for many members. So the pair is also pushing a letter to Speaker Boehner, urging him to take up immigration reform. Valadao said he tries not to pressure people on any specific piece of language, urging a debate on the floor and the opportunity to vote. "Fix what they don’t like about each bill as it comes, but go through the legislative process."
On Friday, the head of the campaign arm of the GOP – the National Republican Congressional Committee – said it was his "guess" that the immigration debate would happen “later next year." Next year, of course, is an election year and immigration is one of those hot button issues politicos like to avoid.
Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the NRCC, dismissed the notion that immigration can't be tackled in an election year. He told a breakfast gathering of reporters that most members have already staked out positions on immigration "and what they can and cannot support going into it."
NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato gave a preview of how the debate is likely to play out in one word: "Obamacare." Scarpinato says the Affordable Care Act is a cautionary tale, "kind of a warning signal of what happens when you don't have a lot of transparency, when people haven't read everything that's in the bill."