Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a key Republican negotiator in the House working group, said the individual issues are so interwoven that it may be difficult to entirely separate them into individual bills.
“It’s an unnatural split, but you could do it, sure,” he said. “If, tactically, it helps to split a bill, if that satisfies certain needs of individuals or committees, I don’t have an issue with that. But we have to fix what’s broken.”
Leadership is also worried that comprehensive changes might be difficult to achieve, particularly once the price tag of any plan becomes an issue amid an era of calls for lower spending.
“I think the leadership is trying to figure out how best to do it,” one Republican insider said. “I don’t think the Republicans are closed off, but when you get into comprehensive, there are issues that are tough to deal with.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing the comprehensive approach, although members would no doubt ultimately support passage of bills on an individual basis if the GOP proceeded that way.
“As we’ve seen over the last several decades, short-term, piecemeal plans only prolong the issues we must address today,” a Democratic House aide said. “We’re focused on passing a long-term, comprehensive solution that fixes the immigration problem once and for all.”
A piecemeal approach could also put the House GOP at odds with members of the party in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, are working on a comprehensive bill.
In fact, House Republican leaders are urging industries with an interest in an immigration rewrite to pressure senators to accept their approach and refrain from holding hostage any of the individual bills the chamber might produce because of their preference for comprehensive legislation.
The situation remains fluid, but House Republican leaders could be open to moving non-comprehensive immigration bills that address specific problems on a bipartisan basis. Leadership is unlikely to do so without the support of at least 100 Republicans, although the magic number could ultimately increase to around 150 or more.
The challenges include the political pressure that could materialize on the right and educating members to understand the urgency and benefits of the issue.
After redistricting, the majority of GOP House members don’t have much to fear politically in the 2014 midterm elections, at least at this point; facing a tough primary challenge is what they worry about the most.
Additionally, a majority represent districts with a Hispanic population of less than 10 percent, meaning their constituents express little concern about changes to immigration policy.