WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday threw cold water on the idea that immigration reform could be revived this year, due to “irresolvable” differences between the House and Senate.
“I think we have sort of an irresolvable conflict here,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The Senate insists on comprehensive [legislation], the House says it won’t go to conference with the Senate on comprehensive and wants to look at it step by step.”
He added, “I don’t see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced a set of principles on immigration reform on Thursday and Democrats mostly expressed cautious optimism about the plan, though it calls for separate bills rather than the comprehensive approach taken in the Senate legislation passed last June. President Barack Obama has said that he is open to the GOP's plan to release separate bills rather than a comprehensive one, so long as they address the key issues of reform: border security, enforcement, legal status for undocumented immigrants and changing the legal immigration system.
The House Republican principles span those topics, but lack details, so it's unclear how much they will align with the bill that passed the Senate. There's one notable difference: the House principles would not allow for a "special path to citizenship," although they would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a legal status and do not mention banning them from ever becoming citizens.
Boehner told reporters earlier Tuesday that members "seemed to be rather supportive of" the principles laid out last week, but emphasized they are still far from decided on what they will do.
"There was a lot of discussion about whether we should proceed and if we proceeded how we would proceed," Boehner said after a meeting with the GOP conference. "It's also clear from our members that we believe that securing our borders has to be the first step in this process. But we're continuing to take comments from members about the draft principles, continuing the conversation that we we started last Thursday. No decisions have been made."
UPDATE: 4:45 p.m. -- A senate Democratic aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, pushed back on McConnell's statement on Tuesday, noting that the senator opposed reform when it went for a vote last year.
"Senator McConnell wasn’t supportive of the Senate process, and contrary to his view, thus far the House principles leave open a real chance we’ll get immigration reform done this year," the aide said.