Boehner meets with House members on immigration bill timing

Republican members of a bipartisan group working on immigration legislation in the House are meeting Friday morning with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to discuss when the group should move ahead to introduce legislation, as the group nears agreement on a bill.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The meeting, confirmed by three congressional aides, comes a day after Democrats in the group briefed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Aides said the eight member group is close to an agreed upon bill--but is eager for input from Boehner. Boehner has been publicly supportive of the quiet negotiations but has long said action on the issue should begin in the Senate.

“I think as of last night, they may have an agreement, an agreement in principle in terms of how we would deal with the question of both legal immigration and illegal immigration,” Boehner told the New York Times in an interview Thursday.

A bipartisan group is also working on legislation in the Senate and has received more attention than the House effort. Most advocates want to see the Senate take action first--theorizing that a broad bipartisan vote there could put pressure on a potentially more resistant House to act. Still, that would not preclude the House group from introducing legislation for hearings while the Senate effort progresses.

That could serve to prepare House Republicans for the potentially difficult and emotional debate before the Senate bill lands. It could also lay out some boundaries for senators of how far House Republicans are likely to be willing to go on the issue.

For instance, in a statement of joint principles released by the Senate group in January, the senators endorsed an eventual path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

While House Republicans have been newly willing to accept a new legal status for those currently in the country illegally--which would allow them to live and work in the United States--many have been vocally opposed to extending full citizenship. A leading opponent of a path to citizenship has been Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a member of the House's working group.

Other House members include Republican Reps. Sam Johnson (Tex.), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), and Rep. John Carter (Tex.). The group's Democrats are Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and John Yarmouth (Ky.).

The group will not introduce a bill prior to a two-week congressional recess that begins March 22. However, members are optimistic they could be ready to unveil legislative language shortly after Easter--the same timeframe as the Senate has been exploring.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.
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