It’s going to be a battle to get immigration reform passed by Congress. The Senate has crafted an 867-page bill that Senators say will most likely need 70 votes in support to put pressure on the House to accept it, while the House has written its own legislation that differs markedly and will vie for acceptance against the Senate bill. The Senate bill will be ready in June, while the House expects to be finished around the same time.
The House GOP asserts that no matter how many senators vote for the Senate bill, the House will not accept it. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), said, “I don’t think it can pass the House. I think our bill has a better chance of passing the House than the Senate bill. We went more into detail than they did. They’ve got holes all through their bill.”
The House bill will have to travel through the Judiciary Committee, which is bitterly divided on partisan lines; hardline conservatives Iowa Rep. Steve King and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert have publicly opposed the Senate bill but they share the committee with liberals such as New York Rep. Jerry Nadler. And Judiciary’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), has said he prefers dealing with immigration one step at a time, instead of the Senate’s all-inclusive approach. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) agreed with Goodlatte: “I’m in favor of an incremental approach. I think you do this one step at a time. Find common ground and move onto the next issue.”
Carter noted the difficulty, stating, “Judiciary is going to be a tough row to hoe. But I think we’ll be all right. I think that a lot of the things that make it important are going to stay in place. At least I’m very hopeful.”
Some of the differences between the Democrats and the GOP are these:
- The Democrats want language used by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO; The GOP favors business interests;
- The Senate bill gives undocumented immigrants 13-years for a path to citizenship and an even faster path for DREAM Act-eligible immigrants. The House wants a 15-year path instead, and immigrants would have to admit they had come here illegally and remain on probation.
- The House wants the legalization process shut down if E-Verify is not in place five years after the bill is implemented.
King has threatened to shut down the bill if amnesty is accepted. He said:
If there’s anything that looks like amnesty that’s brought before this Congress it would be exactly the wedge that splits the Republican Party in this House. There are a whole lot of conservatives that haven’t spoken out. They’re increasing in their intensity in this thing. I can just feel it.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) was polite but resolute in his defense of the House bill:
I think this is a very important first step — the fact that you have folks from the ideological opposites agreeing on what is a very complicated, complex piece of legislation. But I’m not blinded to the fact that that’s just a first step. It is a very, very difficult process. It’s going to be a lengthy process. I have been exceeding deferential to my Senate colleagues because I think they deserve a lot of credit. But there’s no doubt that a House bill will have to be a lot different than the Senate bill.
He was echoed by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee dealing with immigration issues, who said of the Senate bill, “We appreciate that opening bid … but we’re going to let the House work its will and produce our own legislation.”