Policy

Immigration Reform Will Happen 'Later Next Year,' Walden Says

Walden told reporters Friday that the House could take up an immigration overhaul next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An immigration overhaul in the House isn't dead, but it won't happen this year, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee said Friday.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said the House would likely pass legislation to fix the nation's broken immigration system by the end of next year. He made the comments at a Friday breakfast briefing with reporters that was sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

"The speaker has said on more than one occasion that this is a federal problem. I've said this is a federal problem. It needs to be dealt with by the federal government, so I think you'll see it come," the first-term NRCC chairman said. "It's a matter of timing, in part because of everything else that hasn't been done yet with the whole government funding issue and all of that has eaten up a lot of time. So my guess it it will happen later next year."

Conventional wisdom had been that if the House was going to address immigration, it would have to be before the end of 2013 to avoid narrowing in the 2014 elections. But some House Republicans have been worried that moving anything as controversial as immigration legislation might imperil members facing right-wing primary challenges.

Walden was specifically asked if it would be easier for the House to wait until after the primary season to pass any immigration-related legislation. He dismissed that premise, saying that most members know how they're going to vote anyway.

"People know their districts pretty well and what they can and cannot support going into it, so I don't think [timing is] that big of an issue," Walden said. "And you're going to have primaries all the way to August."

Walden reiterated other points on immigration that kept with the party line, namely that any overhaul would be accomplished piecemeal rather than comprehensively.

Earlier this week, Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters that he would never move to conference any House-passed immigration bill with the measure passed by the Senate earlier this year. The Senate measure would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, among other things.

“Frankly,” Boehner told reporters, GOP leaders “have no intention of ever going to conference” with the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, even if Republicans pass a bill of their own.

“We’ve made it clear that we’re going to move on a common sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration,” the Ohio Republican said.