House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, delivered what may well be the final nail in the coffin of immigration reform prospects in the near future with a vow that House leaders "have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."
Boehner was referring to a congressional procedure that would let Senate and House negotiators merge together legislation from both chambers of Congress. Immigration reform advocates have long seen that move as the best strategy to influence any House legislation with principles of the bill that passed the Democrat-controlled Senate in June, including a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. That's exactly what conservatives fear about a so-called conference committee.
The speaker has long promised not to take up the Senate bill in the House, and, under pressure from his members, has also pledged not to put to a vote any legislation from a House-Senate negotiations that didn't have the support of the majority of his members. But this is the first time he has come out and said there won't be a negotiation with the Senate at all.
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He reiterated that the House will develop its own, piece-by-piece bills, rather than comprehensive legislation that mirrors the Senate effort. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is "developing a set of principles" for the House to work with. Goodlatte has written or overseen the passage of four single-issue bills out of his committee, none of which have Democratic support.
The best shot at bipartisan immigration legislation died earlier this year when a working group of House Democrats and Republicans that had been crafting a comprehensive bill collapsed earlier this year.
House Democrats introduced a version of the Senate bill that includes a border-security plan with bipartisan support in the House that has attracted a handful of Republican co-sponsors, but does not appear to have much momentum.Obama: We can pass immigration reform before year's end
President Obama has stepped up his efforts in recent weeks to pressure the House into passing immigration reform, but his efforts if anything seem to have pushed Boehner in the opposite direction. The speaker says he wants to deal with the issue, but isn't giving a time frame for when it might be accomplished.
That hasn't stopped immigration activists from trying to apply their own pressure. A pair of teenage activists from the pro-reform Fair Immigration Reform Movement confronted Boehner at Pete's Diner on Capitol Hill, a favorite breakfast spot for the speaker, to press him to act on immigration in order to stop family separation through deportation. Boehner reportedly told the two activists that he is "trying to find some way to get this thing done."
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