(WASHINGTON) — Comprehensive immigration overhaul might have sailed through the Senate with a comfortable 68-32 vote before the Independence Day recess, but the post-holiday focus is now on the House, which seems reluctant to offer — much less pass — a wide-ranging bill of its own.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is expected to meet Wednesday with his Republican Party members to decide the fate of the largest overhaul to immigration in more than 25 years.
Republican members of the bipartisan House “Group of Seven″ — Texas Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson, and Mario Diaz Balart of Florida — are expected to be in attendance and could perhaps help sway House Republicans to back their own bipartisan bill that has yet to be shared publicly.
The bill would reflect Republican desires for even tougher language on points like border security than seen in the Senate bill, sources close to the negotiations say.
Boehner has said repeatedly that he has no plans to take up the Senate bipartisan bill, reiterating the point on Monday.
“The House is going to do its own job on developing an immigration bill,” he said. “The American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system.”
He added that the system is “broken” and he hopes Wednesday’s conversation with Republicans will give them a way forward.
“We just can’t turn a blind eye to this problem and think it’s going to go away,” Boehner said. “It is time for Congress to act, but I believe the House has its job to do. And we will do our job.”
Tom Wong, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, said in an ABC News/Yahoo! Power Players interview that he is ”skeptical” the House will pass a comprehensive bill.
Wong counts a solid 203 “yes” votes in the House with an additional 11 votes “likely,” just shy of the 218 needed for a majority.
Another deciding factor for the “what happens next” question could also come after the August recess when House and Senate members return to their constituents. Through town halls and meetings, members of Congress get to hear exactly how their voters feel and this is one issue they are likely to hear about up close.
Meanwhile, the pro-immigration movement isn’t slowing down and has shifted its attention to trying to convince the House to take up anything.
“We are escalating our field, media and legislative campaign, from polling and launching radio ads to phone-banking and registering voters,” Eliseo Medina, international secretary treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. ”We simply aren’t slowing down. Their constituents, including millions of Latino voters and aspiring Americans, and communities across the country are counting on Republican leadership in the House to deliver and leave the politics of the past behind all of us.”
The evangelical movement has also been pressing forward to encourage House members to support an overhaul, even placing a “thank you” ad in Politico on Tuesday.
“Starting from scratch is always a difficult place to go,” David Cooper, president of the Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colo., said on a call with reporters Tuesday.
“As long as they are willing to engage the dialogue and keep moving forward, I’m OK if they want to start over again,” he said. “I’m not endorsing a single bill that is out there right now, but I am standing firmly behind the set of principles that the Evangelical Immigration Table has put forward.”
The non-partisan Evangelical Immigration Table consists of a group of religious leaders and lobbyists working toward comprehensive immigration overhaul.
On the other side of the issue, two influential conservative voices — Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and Rich Lowry of the National Review — came out Tuesday with a op-ed calling for the death of the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” bill.
The pair argued “there is no case for the bill, and certainly no urgency to pass it,” and called on Boehner and House Republicans to “do the country a service by putting a stake through its (immigration reform) heart.”
Wednesday afternoon’s meeting could determine whether House Republicans choose to do just that.
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