House Republicans vowed Thursday to have their own say in the debate over immigration reform, two days after a Senate committee gave approval to a sweeping border control bill.
GOP leaders said in a statement that the House “will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes. ... The House will work its will and produce its own legislation." Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) issued the statement along with Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.).
The declaration represented a warning to Senate Democrats that they can expect a tough negotiation with the House even if both chambers produce immigration bills. Goodlatte, a staunch conservative, has begun holding hearings on smaller-scale immigration proposals, while a bipartisan group of eight House members continues private negotiations on its own comprehensive bill that is reportedly more conservative than the Senate plan.
Boehner has not decided whether to move forward with a piecemeal approach of smaller bills or to consider a comprehensive bill.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the comprehensive legislation by next month. Some Senate Democrats have said they hope to win as many as 70 votes for a bill that includes a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, new visas for foreign workers, increased border control and the elimination of some family visa categories. They believe that would put pressure on the House to adopt the main tenets of the plan.
But Boehner met this week with faith leaders, telling them that he expects a separate immigration bill to emerge from the House and that would set up a conference with Senate leaders to attempt to hash out a compromise between the two bills, according to one person at the meeting.
The speaker said he hoped to have a House bill by Aug. 1, before the six-week summer recess, and the conference would begin in the fall, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private discussions.
House Republicans, though, have objected to a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants, which is a core feature in the Senate bill. Some GOP House members have said they would consider allowing undocumented immigrants to earn legal status but not citizenship.
“Enacting policy as consequential and complex as immigration reform demands that both chambers of Congress engage in a robust debate and amendment process,” the House Republicans said in their statement.