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Boehner Says No to Conference With Senate Immigration Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just when you thought a comprehensive immigration overhaul in the House was dead — yeah, it's still dead.

Speaker John A. Boehner dashed the hopes of Democrats and advocates of a comprehensive approach on Wednesday, when he appeared to close off the avenue most likely to succeed — going to conference on the Senate's immigration bill.

"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. "The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House."

While Boehner has long said the House would not address immigration in a broad measure — opting for a piece-by-piece approach instead — he has never publicly stated that the House would not take one of these smaller immigration bills, such as a border security measure, and conference it with the comprehensive Senate bill.

That was the common hope among Democrats and immigration overhaul advocates alike, so much so that Boehner was the target of a TV commercial urging Americans to call his office. The immigration advertisement continues to run in national media markets.

"And smaller markets, like Cincinnati, Ohio," Boehner noted with a tinge of annoyance at the fact that immigration advocates would run ads against him in his own district's media market.

Still, Boehner said he remains committed to addressing immigration.

"I want us to deal with this issue, but I want to deal with it in a common sense, step-by-step way," he said, noting that House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., is working with "our members, and frankly across the aisle, developing a set of principles that will help guide us as we deal with this issue."

Asked whether it would be this year or next year, Boehner was evasive.

"As we develop principles, we'll figure out how we move ahead," he said.

Earlier in the day, young immigration activists confronted Boehner at his regular breakfast cafe over his plans for immigration. The liberal activist group Change Nation posted a video of the awkward exchange on YouTube.