Boehner has backed the group’s effort but has not said he would support the bill. He and other House leaders have said, though, they were committed to regular order, meaning any legislation would first go through committee.
Incremental immigration bills sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Republicans are already moving through markup, despite opposition from Democrats. Whether the bipartisan comprehensive bill will make it through a similar process remains to be seen.
“If we can pass it through committee and if we get it moving, then I think it will go to the floor,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a member of the working group. “And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The challenge is can we get the votes.”
Getting a majority of House Republicans to back such a bill has always been a long shot. But immigration advocates had hoped to pressure Boehner into putting the legislation on the floor and passing it with the support of a majority of Democrats and a few more moderate Republicans.
If the House comprehensive bill fell apart, advocates were hoping to force Boehner to bring up a similar Senate bill (S 744), now pending on the floor in that chamber.
Boehner’s embrace of the Hastert rule appears to close that alternative. And if he were to reconsider his approach, he’s sure to face a revolt that could threaten his political future. Some of GOP leadership’s most vocal antagonists, among them King, are taking Boehner at his word and will hold him accountable if he should re-evaluate his strategy. Indeed, Boehner already faces an effort from members of the rank and file who want to force a vote in the House Republican Conference to formally codify the Hastert rule.
His allies on Wednesday were unwilling to weigh in on whether Boehner might have gone too far.
“It’s the toughest job around,” said Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio. “I would never question the Speaker.”