06/28/2013 12:27 pm ET Updated Jun 28, 2013

House GOP: Senate Immigration Vote Doesn't Put Pressure On Us

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) rejected the notion on Friday that House Republicans will feel pressure -- even a little -- to pass immigration reform just because the Senate passed a sweeping bill on Thursday.

"The assumption that because there's a Senate bill, the House will feel the pressure, individual members of the House will feel pressure to support that bill, frankly just is not accurate," he said at an event hosted by Bloomberg Government and the National Restaurant Association. "I think the real pressure is the pressure to fix an immigration system that's broken."

Diaz-Balart and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), two members of a House group working on a comprehensive reform bill, said at the event that their efforts haven't stalled, despite a setback earlier this month when Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) dropped out of negotiations. Diaz-Balart is a strong supporter of immigration reform, and said he remains optimistic the House can get it done. But they're not discussing details, or how their bill might differ from the "gang of eight" bill that passed the Senate, or when the legislation will be released.

"It will be done when it is done," Lofgren said. "It's more important to get it right than to get it done by a particular deadline."

Although he wouldn't get into specifics -- the group has been impressive in its ability to keep its work quiet -- Diaz-Balart said he thinks legislation like theirs is the only thing that can pass the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate. The group is working on an approach that would deal with undocumented immigrants, along with border security, enforcement and legal immigration.

The majorities in the two chambers have very different ideas about how to reform what members in both bodies consider a broken immigration system. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), whose committee approves immigration bills, have said they favor a piecemeal approach. Democrats and those Republicans in the Senate who pushed for the gang of eight bill say a comprehensive bill is needed because the various issues on immigration are intertwined.

Although the House Judiciary Committee has considered multiple bills, none of them deal with the undocumented population other than to criminalize being in the country without status, Lofgren noted. It's possible that a path to citizenship, deemed vital by President Barack Obama and Democrats, cannot pass the House, given the Republican opposition.

"I am absolutely confident that a majority of Republicans are not going to give citizenship to 11 million illegal aliens," Rep Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Friday on the "Laura Ingraham" show.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told the National Review's Jonathan Strong that the House should "fold it up into a paper airplane and throw it out the window," referring to the Senate bill. He quipped, "Oh, is that not the right answer?"

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who serves in the GOP leadership, said Thursday at an event hosted by the National Review that it was "a pipe dream" to think the House would take up the gang of eight's bill.

Boehner has vowed not to break the Hastert Rule, an informal vow to take up legislation only when a majority of his conference supports it, meaning the Senate bill has very little chance of being considered. That would mean an immigration bill could be signed into law only if the chambers combine the piecemeal approach from the House and the Senate's comprehensive one.

"The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes," Boehner told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. "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," he added later, referring to Republicans.

Some House Republicans have said the chamber shouldn't pass any immigration reform bills, even if a majority of the GOP supports them, because to do so would provide an opportunity for the House and Senate to combine bills.

"I'm one of those who believes that this is fraught with peril," Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said on the "Laura Ingraham" show Thursday, noting his was the minority view. "If we were to pass a bill that's a good bill on immigration, on enforcing and securing our borders, on whatever topic related to immigration we may want to pass a bill on, it can become a vehicle."

Senators who supported the bill hope the House can pass a bill and perhaps improve upon the Senate's bill.

"This isn't the end of the process, we're kind of at halftime," Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who authored a border security amendment with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said after the Senate vote. "So the next thing is to figure out how we get the House to engage."

Obama has promised to keep pressuring House Republicans to take up reform, as well. He spoke to Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

"Today, the Senate did its job," Obama said in a statement. "It's now up to the House to do the same. As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye. Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen."

Lofgren, the ranking member of the House Judiciary's immigration subcommittee, said some of the bills they've taken up have been "absurd," and that, although she and Goodlatte have a good working relationship, they so far haven't worked together much on immigration.

"I am hopeful that we will have a better approach than we've had so far in the House Judiciary Committee," she said. She added that although she thinks "there was obviously an effort to have poison pills or matters that Democrats could never support ... we weren't screaming at each other. You can disagree in a professional way."

Danielle Schlanger contributed reporting.



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