Now that the Senate has approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the next stop for the legislation is … Las Vegas.
That’s where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans Monday to “pass the baton,” on immigration reform in Congress to Rep. Luis Gutierrez an Illinois Democrat and key member of a bipartisan House group working on its own comprehensive bill.
Gutierrez said the bill is complete, but collecting dust because of internal partisan disagreement over the language in it.
Reid hopes to push for a final agreement on the House bill with what his aides have labeled “an immigration reform event,” in Las Vegas. It will be held at the Culinary Union Local 226 and will include state officials and proponents of immigration reform, but Gutierrez is the star attraction.
Gutierrez told the Washington Examiner that talks have stalled in recent days.
“We drafted the bill,” Gutierrez said. “It’s done. There is no impediment for me.”
Gutierrez said the bill has stalled because of Republican objections.
“I love my Republican colleagues, but they are going to have to move forward,” he said.
When asked what problems the GOP had found in the agreement, Gutierrez responded, “I haven’t a clue.”
Lawmakers in the group have disagreed over whether newly legalized immigrants should have access to the new Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.
The disagreement prompted a key member, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, to abandon the group and start drafting his own measure.
Gutierrez and other members of the House group working on the comprehensive immigration bill have refused to disclose details about the legislation, but a Republican member, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told the Examiner the House plan is “in the same planet,” as the Senate-passed bill, which pairs border security with a pathway to citizenship.
Even if the House gang releases a comprehensive plan, it may never make it to the House floor for a vote. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has signaled he won’t move a plan that does not have a majority of support from his GOP conference, many of whom oppose a pathway to citizenship or even legalization without border security triggers the Democrats won’t tolerate.
Gutierrez is not ruling out a compromise. “I’m willing to hold my nose and vote for things because my colleagues believe it is responsible.”
But the negotiations, he said, must be made “in a collective manner.” Gutierrez’s view of border security differs greatly from his Republican colleagues.
“If you want border security,” he said, “Stop buying drugs in America.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a co-author of the Senate bill that passed last week, said on Fox News Sunday that House leaders will be pressured into passing a comprehensive bill in order to stop the loss of Hispanic support at the polls. In the 2012 election, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote while Obama received 71 percent.
But Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., pointed out that 70 percent of the Senate’s Republican lawmakers voted against the Gang of Eight bill.
“Republicans are in the majority in the House,” Goodlatte said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We want to work with Democrats, we want to work with Luis and others to do a bill, but not the Senate bill. And the compromise is going to have to come both in getting a bill out of the House and then in going to conference with the Senate to work out the differences.”