Today, it was revealed that a small group of House members have been meeting to draft legislation on immigration reform. The effort is reminiscent of the “Gang of 8” agreement in the Senate announced with great fan fare just over a week ago. There is a crucial difference, however, that suggests the talks are even more political theater than the Senate effort. None of the House members are on the Judiciary Committee, through which any legislation would have to pass.
The Hill identified the six House members as GOP Reps. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) (TX), Rep. John Carter (R-TX) (TX) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) (FL) and Dem Reps. Luis Guttierrez, Xavier Beccera (CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) (CA.) Unlike the Senate effort, these lawmakers are drafting legislative language. Any legislation drafted by this group would have to be taken up in the Judiciary Committee.
That Committee is chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA), who has indicated the Committee will take a very “deliberate” approach to immigration. The Committee convenes its first hearing on the issue on Tuesday. Goodlatter has said that he expects the Committee to hold “a long series of hearings” on the topic.
Tomorrow will also provide a sense of House GOP Leadership’s views on the issue. Majority Leader Eric Cantor gives a major policy address that will cover immigration.
Any progress on immigration reform will require a balance between enforcement and resolving the status of 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US. When the Senate “deal” was first announced, it looked like there was agreement on tackling border enforcement first, followed by discussions of any path to legal status. Democrats who were party to Senate talks have since spoken against such an approach.
The House is expected to insist on a similar approach. It is possible that the House may seek to pass a package of bills, rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation. In any event, how the House handles this will be a good early test of Speaker Boehner’s promise to follow “regular order” when considering legislation.
The outlines of possible House action should begin to emerge on Tuesday.