With immigration reform talks stalled in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, a senior Democrat may move to force their hand.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi is said to be considering introducing a bill herself, one that would be a variation of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform measure that the Democrat-controlled Senate passed in June.
Pelosi, who is the House Minority Leader, would seek to pressure Republicans to be co-sponsors, according to The Washington Post. Republicans in the House have expressed objections over parts of the Senate bill that allows a pathway to legal status for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The other key part of the bill calls for tightening enforcement.
“Leader Pelosi is proposing something closer to her ideal bill, and her intention is to keep the House moving forward, which is a good thing,” Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, said in a statement, according to published reports.
The move, which may come within the next two weeks, would follow a defection of three Republicans in the last few months from what began as a bipartisan group in the House to work on an immigration reform bill, or several bills dealing with different aspects of the divisive issue.
Last week, Texas Republican Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson announced that they were abandoning the effort to work on a comprehensive immigration bill, which President Obama has pushed to see passed in Congress by the end of the year.
“The California Democrat’s strategy includes introducing legislation combining the comprehensive bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May with a bipartisan border-security bill from the House Homeland Security Committee, according to sources familiar with the plans,” said a story in Politico.
“The plan would be to publicly release the bill timed to the Oct. 5 National Day of Action,” the Politico story said, “that is meant to mobilize grass-roots support and pressure the House Republican leadership to take up immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.”
The so-called Group of Eight began earlier this year with four Democrats and four Republicans. The objective had been to draft legislation that would be presented as a bipartisan effort, a tactic that those behind it hoped would improve the odds of such a measure getting enough support to pass.
The Texas lawmakers’ withdrawal from the group follows the decision in June by Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho, to walk away. Only one Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, of Florida, remains in what originally had been called the Group of Eight.
The Texas congressmen blamed their decision on Obama, saying they could not trust him to implement the enforcement aspect of any immigration reform.
A similar group in the Senate, called the Gang of Eight, which included Schumer, went out of its way to project a united front, even as they differed over several aspect of the reform measure.
House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, said from the outset that his chamber would not rubber-stamp the Senate bill. Several Republican leaders in the House said they preferred to deal with immigration through separate bills instead of one overarching one.
The House, to be sure, always was seen as a more uphill battle. Republicans have a majority in the chamber, and a conservative faction holds considerable sway.
Many groups on different sides of the immigration debate had grown doubtful about the chances for passage of an immigration bill this year. Work on measures had stalled in the House over the summer, and with Syria commanding attention in Congress, the window appeared to be getting narrower for significant progress on legislation.
In recent weeks, supporters of a path to legal status and Democrats in Congress have said that the impasse in the House required stronger pressure on reluctant lawmakers to get back to work on immigration reform legislation.
"It is clear the bipartisan group's work was not being embraced by Republican leaders, so this allows us to put the focus squarely on Speaker Boehner and his lieutenants to decide if they are serious about reform and if so, to do something more than talk," Gutierrez said in a statement last week.
Politico quotes an unnamed immigration reform advocate as saying: “Dems agree that they need to lean into the issue more” and that may include releasing a bill ‘sooner rather than later.’”