House Immigration Bills Are Still in the Mix

Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2014

Speaker John Boehner and other senior House Republicans are telling donors and industry groups that they aim to pass immigration legislation this year, despite the reluctance of many Republicans to tackle the divisive issue before the November elections.

Many lawmakers and activists have assumed the issue was off the table in an election year. But Mr. Boehner said at a Las Vegas fundraiser last month he was “hellbent on getting this done this year,” according to two people in the room.

A spokesman for Mr. Boehner didn’t dispute the account but said no action is possible until President Barack Obama proves himself a trustworthy partner to Republicans.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered an upbeat message about legislative prospects during a recent trip to Silicon Valley, said Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who hosted his visit.

He said Mr. Goodlatte told him action in 2014 was “entirely possible,” likely in the form of votes this summer on five to seven immigration bills. A spokeswoman for Mr. Goodlatte declined to comment on the exchange.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) also is drafting legislation that would give qualifying undocumented immigrants legal status and the chance to apply for citizenship through existing channels. The bill includes border-security measures and an effort to clear the backlog of applications for permanent legal status, known as green cards.

House leaders have told Mr. Diaz-Balart to have the legislation ready to go for possible debate in June or July, an aide said.

One issue that could impact the timetable in Congress is a review of deportation policy now under way by the Department of Homeland Security, at Mr. Obama’s direction.

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Republicans who want to move legislation are at odds over timing. Some argue that next year offers a better window for action, because Republicans will be more focused on the 2016 presidential election, when support from Hispanics would be important to the party’s nominee.

But increasingly, GOP lobbyists and some congressional staff say the taskmight grow harder if the party waits.

If Republicans win control of the Senate, for example, Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), who is widely seen as opposing an immigration overhaul, would be slated to lead the Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration.

Many in the business community have shifted their lobbying to emphasize this point, several lobbyists said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Grassley said that he opposed the Senate’s bipartisan bill, in part because amendments he believed would have improved the measure were rejected.

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