Rank-and-file House Republicans got some breathing room Wednesday when their leaders refused to bow to senators’ demand to vote on the upper chamber’s recently passed comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Instead, House Republican leaders said they prefer to go slow while charting their own course on immigration because of distrust for President Barack Obama's administration when it comes to enforcing the nation’s laws. Following a special GOP caucus meeting Wednesday, the leadership issued a joint statement, stating Americans want the borders secured and the law enforced.
“But they don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem,” the statement read. “The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”
The GOP leaders were referring to the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act, which the administration has decided to put off for a year to be more accommodating to businesses. Their theory is that with immigration reform, what's to stop the Obama administration from legalizing the millions of undocumented and putting off border security for later?
Therefore, it seems immigration reform will continue to chug along in the House, where the committees have passed only five bills. None of those bills deal with the fate of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently here, as is the case with the Senate legislation. Instead, the House is choosing to focus legislation dealing with employer verification, high-skilled worker visas, agricultural guest workers, interior enforcement and border security.
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Though criticized for their slow pace, Republican strategist Robert Haus said House Republicans have actually been doing “a good share of work,” but are “hunkering down, and trying to get some work done with a diverse caucus.”
“They seemed to have broken the logjam of the last several years, especially on budget issues,” Haus said. “They’re passing budgets … like they’re supposed to do.”
He added that failure on the House’s part to pass an immigration overhaul as yet doesn’t mean the chamber isn’t working. Still, the members disagree on what reform should look like: should it focus mainly or border security and enforcement or should there be a touch of legalization.
“In the end, they will hammer out their differences and get the work done,” Haus said, adding that current perceived battles are about the leadership finding a balance with independently minded members. “They’ll find a happy medium. … I really believe if Congress did smaller scope bills and issues, more would get done. It could help achieve more consensus, lessen the horse-trading and generally speed up the process.”