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Immigration Battle Shifts to House as Senate Readies Bill

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Flake was one of the Senate’s “gang of eight” who met Wednesday with House Republicans to discuss immigration overhaul legislation.

But Rubio and Flake were hardly alone in addressing the RSC. GOP senators who have vigorously opposed the gang of eight’s bill, such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, also addressed the House GOP group.

Paul said there is a divide between the two chambers over a pathway to citizenship. The Senate bill includes a pathway for unauthorized immigrants who meet specific criteria.

“So, you have about 100 congressmen [in the room] and you got a feel for where they are. They’re definitely in a different place than the Senate,” Paul said.

“I don’t think there was any sentiment in the House for a new pathway to citizenship,” he continued. “That was one of the sort of things that seemed to be pretty adamant from most of them.”

But, in what might be a sign of the complexity of the issue, Flake said he doesn’t believe a majority of House members would oppose such a path.

“There are some who don’t want any immigration reform, no path to citizenship, but that view is not shared by all. In fact, I don’t think it’s shared by most,” Flake said. “People just want to make sure we don’t return to this problem years from now.”

Flake also stressed that the House has to be on board to send a bill to the president. He suggested that boosting border security provisions in the bill could accomplish that.

Indeed, Rubio hinted that his vote depends on that. “I think it needs improvements in the border security section,” Rubio said, reprising comments he made Tuesday night on the program hosted by conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

In that interview, Rubio suggested he could vote against the bill he helped write if it didn’t have stronger border security provisions.

There is also the political reality that House resistance to an immigration overhaul along the lines of the Senate bill makes finding votes among senators tougher. Lawmakers as a rule don’t like to vote for controversial provisions if they aren’t going to become law.

Flake, a former House member, said that the supporters want the House to work its will and hopefully come up with a bipartisan proposal that can pass the chamber. But some influential Republicans, including House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., are leaning toward a more piecemeal approach.

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