(CBS News) House members will "take a look at" the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that sailed through the Senate last month, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Sunday on "Face the Nation," but ultimately the Republican-controlled chamber is "going to do our own thing."
"Americans don't want a comprehensive bill like what we saw with Obamacare, that passed in the middle of the night... they don't want comprehensive. What they want is regular-order pieces of legislation," McCaul said, explaining the House's plan to pass immigration reform elements piecemeal.
A GOP conference Wednesday to discuss immigration reform will focus on the Senate's proposal to open a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, and "applying Obamacare," McCaul said. He predicted under regular order, they can reach a conference committee by the end of 2013 or in early 2014, "where we do hash out the differences between the Senate and the House versions."
One tenet of the Senate bill McCaul said he takes particular issue with is a robust and pricey border security amendment he believes was "hatched at the last minute to get votes" of conservatives who were holding out for tighter border control. "I have some concerns about... throwing $46 billion at a problem without any plan, without any strategy, without any definition of operational control," he said. "And, you know, there's an old saying, you know, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
McCaul channeled a remark from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that Republicans "need to be the party of solutions and not always obstructing." But politics from the other side, he worried, pose a threat to the House's GOP majority.
"I am deeply concerned that the effort should be bipartisan - border security on my committee was (an) unanimously approved, completely bipartisan bill," he said. "My concern of the political backdrop could be that the White House would like to see this fail in the House so that it can blame the House of Representatives for that and then try to take back the House of Representatives. And then, all bets are off on his agenda."
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, later on the show argued that Democrats aren't trying to sabotage Republicans in 2014. But, he conceded, "once you start it in 2014, it's all politics - and so I hope that Republicans recognize that we've got to get this done quickly."
Becerra said "there's reason to feel optimistic if, indeed, Chairman McCaul's Republican colleagues will follow him. Where we probably disagree is on trying to do this in a piecemeal way, which won't fix the entire machine. You have to fix the entire machine."
Earlier on the show, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the "gang of eight" lawmakers who drafted the Senate bill, said he was "disappointed" his party's leadership voted unanimously against it, but called himself an "eternal optimist" that the House GOP will find a way forward.
"We are not trying to dictate what the House of Representatives should do - and I believe that if they can come up with a bill, we would be more than eager to negotiate with them," he said. "A failure to act is de facto amnesty for 11 million people living in the shadows. I think wherever you are on that issue, there's agreement on that. So then shouldn't we sit down together and solve this issue? Not only for the good of the Republican Party, but for the good of the nation."