Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart says momentum is growing in the House for action on immigration — despite some tough election-year rhetoric recently from fellow Republicans and what the Florida congressman considers ill-advised threats of unilateral action by President Barack Obama.
Diaz-Balart, a major player in the effort on Capitol Hill to produce a bipartisan overhaul of the nation's immigration system, told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he has more supporters now than a month ago and still expects the Republican-controlled House to act before leaving town in August.
"Every day I'm getting more and more Republicans — conservatives — who are frankly approaching me saying, 'How do we move forward?' I feel very very confident that a majority — a strong majority — of Republicans want to finally tackle this system that everyone understands is broken — with some caveats," he said in a phone interview. "Republicans are insisting that we take this step-by-step." The Miami congressman said recent attempts by Obama to facilitate the process in the House are not helpful.
The Pentagon announced last week it is putting on hold, at the request of the White House, a proposal that would have provided legal status to some illegal immigrants who enlist in the military.
Obama has vowed to take more sweeping unilateral action on immigration if Congress doesn't act, but is delaying the Pentagon move to give congressional Republicans more time to produce a legislative solution.
Thanks, but no thanks, said Diaz-Balart.
"The president himself has said on multiple occasions that he does not have the legal authority," Diaz-Balart said, to take some of the unilateral action called for by pro-immigration supporters.
"When the administration says, 'We're temporarily going to halt something we've already said would be illegal for us to do anyway,' you're adding fuel to the fire. How helpful is that?"
"It would just prove, one more time, that this is a president you cannot trust. Which is one of the big obstacles we have with immigration reform."
"Sometimes, this administration just leaves me speechless," he said.
Diaz-Balart also brushed aside comments from Republicans like Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., and some anti-immigration campaign material from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told Brietbart.com last week he "is not aware" of any plan to bring an immigration bill to the floor before the August recess.
And Cantor, who faces a challenger from the right in next week's Virginia primaries, has trumpeted his opposition to "amnesty" in recent mailing to supporters, The Associated Press reported last month.
But Diaz-Balart said he isn't tracking negative comments, he's tracking votes.
"I'm giving up responding to things I hear out there. All I've been doing is systematically working, a number of us have been working, to see if we can draft legislation ... to fix what everybody recognizes is broken."
Related: Goodlatte Warns Deportation Changes Hurt Immigration Overhaul Prospects Immigration Protests Focus on 22 Republicans Across Country Immigration Overhaul for 2014: Decidedly Not Dead Boehner Walks Back Immigration Comments Video Shows Boehner Mocking Colleagues on Immigration Where Do House Republicans Stand on Immigration Principles? (Updated Whip Count) Get breaking news alerts from Roll Call on your iPhone or in your inbox.