September 23, 2013

With House Republicans seemingly stalling on immigration reform, Nancy Pelosi has hit on a plan that is designed to force them to deal with it this fall.

Within the next two weeks, Pelosi may introduce a version of the Senate immigration reform bill in the House, in an effort to pressure House Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors, according to an aide familiar with her thinking. No decisions have been made.

Pelosi’s next move is being closely watched by immigration reformers and Democrats, because they are hoping Dem leaders take action to try to force the issue with their GOP counterparts at a time when it is slipping off the agenda.

Some reformers and Dems had hoped Pelosi would introduce what is known as a “discharge petition,” which would force a vote on the House floor if 218 House Members signed on to it.

But the current plan Pelosi is eying does not involve a discharge petition, which is opposed by some who worry no Republicans would sign it, the aide tells me.

Instead, Pelosi — along with Dem Rep. Xavier Becerra, a key player on immigration — may introduce in the House the version of the Senate bill that passed through the Judiciary Committee. Dems would be expected to rally around it. Pelosi would take the bill, which doesn’t include the amendment throwing a huge amount of money at border security that was attached on the Senate floor by Senators John Hoeven and Bob Corker, which is opposed by a lot of House Democrats and even some House Republicans who derided it as “border candy.”

Instead, Pelosi’s plan (which is not finalized) would take the Senate Judiciary Committee bill and add another measure — sponsored by GOP Rep. Michael McCaul and Dem Rep. Bennie Thompson — that sets out clear border security benchmarks and calls for the meeting of those metrics to be consulted on by a number of key stakeholders.

That measure passed the House Homeland Security Community with unanimous bipartisan support.Pelosi’s likely new move comes after it emerged last week that the House gang of seven bipartisan talks to produce comprehensive reform fell apart.

The reliance of Pelosi on a plan that passed the Senate committee with bipartisan support — with a House border security amendment that won bipartisan support attached to it — is designed to increase pressure on Republicans to act in the House or reveal themselves unwilling to support anything remotely comprehensive in the way of solutions to a problem House GOP leaders themselves have acknowledged must be dealt with.

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UPDATE: The version of the Senate bill that Pelosi may introduce is the one that passed out of the Judiciary Committee. I’ve edited the above to correct (though this doesn’t change the larger significance of the move).

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.