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Boehner Faces Competing Immigration Paths

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Though there is no explicit commitment from Boehner, members and aides close to the bipartisan “gang of eight” seem to have confidence the speaker secretly has their back.

The group briefed him on the principles of their agreement March 15, and on March 19, Boehner called the substance of their proposal “a pretty responsible solution.”

Boehner said April 18 that the bipartisan group “continues to make significant progress” but that Goodlatte is “working diligently with his committee” in addition to that.

“Overall, I’m very happy. The process is continuing,” Boehner added.

The question of who leads on immigration in the House cuts across both substance and process, since Goodlatte is going with a piecemeal approach and the bipartisan group wants to do a comprehensive plan even if, according to House group member Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, the comprehensive plan could be cut up into separate bills that went to the House floor on the same week or day.

Whatever the bipartisan bill proposes, it will still have Goodlatte’s imprint to advance through his committee, according to key lawmakers in public and private.

“It will go through the committee process. It will go through Judiciary. It’s still going to have to go through the process of the committees. It can’t be one small group that gets a chance to dictate to everyone else,” said Rep. James Lankford, chairman of the GOP Policy Committee.

Lankford and Goodlatte referred to the bipartisan groups in the House and Senate as performing a role in vetting what issues are likely to prove difficult for Republicans and Democrats to agree on.

“I’m not a part of their negotiations. My work with them is based on encouraging them to produce something so that we can see what kind of bipartisan support there is on immigration,” Goodlatte said.

The bipartisan group has briefed Goodlatte and Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee that deals with immigration, sources said, but it does not appear the two parties are working closely together.

The Judiciary panel includes a number of very conservative members who might vigorously object to anything approaching “amnesty” for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States.

Those include Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio, J. Randy Forbes of Virginia and the committee’s former chairman, Lamar Smith of Texas.

For example, Smith said in an interview that he was deeply and irrevocably opposed to the bipartisan Senate immigration bill unveiled recently.

“I don’t think I’m ever gonna have a vote on it. I don’t think it gets out of the Senate, and it certainly wouldn’t pass over here,” he said.

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