House Republican leaders will begin to engage next week on the contentious issue of an immigration rewrite, launching a series of listening sessions to educate members.
The sessions will be led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who serves as chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
While immigration is still likely to be overshadowed by budget issues and fiscal maneuvering this month, the move signals that party leaders are beginning to look at how they could move legislation aimed at addressing the issueSeveral sources said House GOP leaders are disinclined to attempt to move comprehensive legislation that would cover all aspects of immigration policy, preferring instead to tackle the overhaul in pieces, beginning with components that would immediately garner broad support.
Those elements could include easing immigration restrictions on highly skilled workers and providing a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents illegally as children and raised as Americans. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has expressed support for the latter.
Gowdy said that in contrast to past listening sessions, the meetings beginning next week are not meant to craft legislation but rather are for the purpose of “purely educating members on the current law.”
“Our position is the current system is broken. We have to carry the burden of persuasion with our colleagues in our own conference, and the way you do that is illustrate, prove to them, why it’s broken,” he said. “Vote your conscience, vote your district, but at least know what the current law is before you do.”
Small bipartisan groups of House members and Senators have been working separately to hash out compromise agreements, and in the House, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his leadership team have been periodically briefed on the contents and progress of those talks, according to GOP leadership aides.
But Republican leaders’ desire to move immigration bills piecemeal could conflict with the bipartisan group of House negotiators who are trying to tackle a comprehensive solution.
“We’ve seen under a Democratic majority how comprehensive bills are seen by the American public,” a House GOP leadership aide said. “It’s just not conducive to getting things right.”
The House working group is still developing legislation. But a broad outline of the proposal described to CQ Roll Call suggests that the secretive group may be close to resolving some differences on creating a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., one of the most controversial pieces of a broader immigration overhaul.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.