The Washington Post

Boehner closes door on House-Senate immigration panel


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks Wednesday at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that the House will not enter negotiations with the Senate to hash out differences between its immigration plans and the Senate immigration bill — dealing a significant blow to the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform by this Congress.

“The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House,” Boehner said. “And frankly, I’ll make clear that we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Conservatives have worried for weeks that passing smaller pieces of immigration reform legislation out of the House, as some Republicans have moved to do, would lead to a House-Senate conference committee in which the larger Senate immigration bill might win out.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who led the comprehensive effort in the Senate, has said any conference committee must promise not to consider the Senate’s bill and only consider the House’s legislation.

Boehner’s comments effectively put an end to that prospect. And given that the House hasn’t shown much interest in passing a comprehensive immigration bill of its own, it could put an end to whatever chance Congress had of achieving that goal — one that Republican leaders pursued following their drubbing among Latino voters in the 2012 presidential election. Mitt Romney garnered just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls.

The House is working on a series of piecemeal immigration bills, most of which deal with enforcement and other issues yet do not address what to do with most of the millions of people who are in the United States illegally. Democrats have pushed for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a centerpiece of most comprehensive immigration bills in recent years, but the House Republican conference has so far declined to embrace that idea.

Boehner previously said that the House wouldn’t vote on the Senate immigration bill, which might be able to pass but has very limited House GOP support. He has also said any bill, including one from a House-Senate conference committee, would need the support of a majority of House Republicans in order to come to a vote.

Wednesday’s comments appear to take this a step further, not even allowing that conference committee to occur if the Senate’s bill is involved.

The White House on Wednesday declined to criticize the step by Boehner, instead urging him to press forward with the House’s own version of comprehensive immigration reform.

“I noted that the speaker said that he has instructed members of his team to devise principles on immigration reform, and I think that’s a welcome step,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

President Obama has continued to push for immigration reform, even as it has been overtaken by issues including the Syrian conflict, the budget debate and the problems with HealthCare.gov and the Affordable Care Act.

Obama has met at the White House this month with business and religious leaders to enlist their support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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