House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday said he would not allow a House vote on comprehensive immigration reform, essentially ending any chance for a "pathway to citizenship" measure to become law this year or next.
The Ohio Republican made the announcement after a closed-door meeting with fellow GOP lawmakers, saying the House would not vote on any legislation resembling the comprehensive Senate measure, which would immediately legalize millions of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and make them eligible for citizenship.
"The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House," Boehner said.
Boehner ruled out a formal House conference meeting with senators to develop a compromise plan involving the Senate bill, which critics say would result in legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship.
Boehner said the House would instead take a "common-sense, step-by-step approach" to immigration reform and that the GOP is working on a "set of principles" that would guide those reforms.
A House panel in recent months began moving the GOP's piecemeal measures, including legislation that would strengthen border security and increase certain types of work visas. House leaders gave no indication of when they would take up those measures.
"This is about trying to do this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb," Boehner told reporters Wednesday. "There are hundreds of issues involved in dealing with immigration reform, and we've got to deal with these in a common-sense way where our members understand what we're doing and their constituents understand."
Many of Boehner's Republican majority feared he would agree to a House-Senate conference on immigration that would likely produce a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, a provision Republicans dismiss as amnesty for lawbreakers.
The news means that proponents of a comprehensive immigration reform measure may have to wait a long while for their next chance to pass something. Republicans will control the House at least until 2015 and likely until 2017, given an electoral outlook that favors GOP lawmakers in the 2014 elections.