House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that he does not “see any way” of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that does not have backing from a majority of the House’s GOP members, calling the border security provisions in the measure currently making its way through the Senate “weak” and “laughable.”
Comprehensive immigration reform must – in some fashion – run through the House, and Boehner’s statements further clouded the outlook for legislation that has been carefully crafted in the Senate. For the president to receive a bill he is willing to sign, proponents are trying to reach a delicate compromise that is both politically palatable and practical in its implementation. And the willingness of House Republicans to sign on to any reform efforts remains a large question mark.
“I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have a majority support of Republicans,” Boehner said during a press briefing with reporters Tuesday.
“I frankly think the Senate bill is weak on border security, I think the internal enforcement mechanisms are weak and the triggers are almost laughable,” he said of the bill drafted by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Jeff Flake. “So if they're serious about getting an immigration bill finished, they should reach out to their GOP colleagues to broaden support.”
Proponents of the “Gang of Eight” bill currently being debated in the Senate have hoped that – if it garners a strong bipartisan vote for passage in the Senate – Boehner would be under enormous political pressure to bring it to the House floor for a vote.
Republicans in the Senate, including Rubio, have pushed for additional border security provisions that could make their bill more palatable to the Republican-led House. But Democratic leaders argue that those attempting to make the bill’s “path to citizenship” contingent on the completion of stringent border provisions are hoping to derail the legalization process for undocumented immigrants.
So far, the major GOP border security amendments voted upon in the Senate so far have failed to garner enough support to be adopted; a proposal by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. to build a 700-mile border fence before undocumented immigrants can obtain green cards failed 39-54 Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters before that vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he believes popular support for the immigration measure will prevail.
"No matter what he [Boehner] has said, there's going to be significant national pressure on the House to do something on immigration," he said.
But on Tuesday, Boehner accused Democrats of seeking to sabotage the legislation.
“I'm increasingly concerned that the White House and Senate Democrats would rather have this as an issue in the 2014 election rather than a result,” he said.
Last week, Boehner told reporters that he would not bring a bill to the floor that violates the “principles” of the Republican Party. His harsh description of the legislation Tuesday made clear that he believes the Senate bill as written would be such a violation.
House committees are currently working through individual pieces of immigration legislation that are less sweeping than the Senate bill. The lower chamber will convene a special conference to discuss immigration reform next month.