House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he does not plan to bring any immigration bill — even a House-Senate compromise — to the House floor without a majority of Republicans supporting it.
If Boehner sticks to his guns, it is a significant blow to the chances of a comprehensive immigration reform bill becoming law by the end of this year. The chances of a majority of Republicans in the House supporting a path to citizenship for unauthorised immigrants — and the chances of Democrats agreeing to a bill that doesn’t include that provision — are both extremely slim.
Still, Boehner took a more firm position than ever on the so-called “Hastert Rule” Thursday.
“Apparently, some haven’t gotten the message” on his immigration strategy, Boehner told reporters at a press conference.
“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We’re going to do our own bill, through regular order, and it’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people. For any legislation – including a conference report – to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.”
Boehner’s position is a firmer one than he took last week. When asked last week if he would require support from a majority of Republicans to bring an immigration bill to the floor, he only said, “We’ll see when we get there.” It’s also a much more concrete position than Boehner took in early June, when he completely left the door open on breaking the so-called “Hastert Rule.”
Boehner’s statement came as the Senate is poised to pass its preferred solution to overhauling the nation’s immigration laws with as many as 70 votes. It will not, however, earn support from a majority of Republican senators.
The House Judiciary Committee has been working on a piece-by-piece approach to its own immigration solution. The problem will come if the two sides go into a conference meant to reconcile the pieces into one bill. Based on some Republicans’ worries about the party’s political future, it’s likely that any reconciled bill would contain a path to citizenship.
In any situation, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a majority of House conservatives back legislation that would also garner 60 votes from a Democratic-controlled Senate — and that President Barack Obama would sign.
A few times this year, Boehner has allowed bills to come to the House floor that have earned a broad majority of support in the Senate, even though a majority of his caucus opposed them.
On Jan. 2, the fiscal cliff deal passed the House with mostly Democratic support. In February, after 23 Republican senators voted for the Violence Against Women Act and the House failed to pass its own version, Boehner put the Senate bill on the floor. That, too, passed with mostly Democratic support.
But on two other prominent occasions, a “supermajority” in the Senate hasn’t been enough to force the House and Boehner to act. He has not scheduled a vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, which earned the votes of 21 Republicans in the Senate. And though House failed to pass its own version of the farm bill in spectacular fashion last week, Boehner has yet to signal he would bring the Senate bill — which passed with 18 Republicans in support — to a vote.
On immigration, Boehner may be faced with another tough choice — one that puts his future speakership at odds with the future of his party.
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