Representative Louie Gohmert and other conservatives on the House Judiciary Committee may block all immigration bills, regardless of their merit, from being reported out of committee. The gambit is meant to prevent a legislative vehicle for comprehensive immigration reform from emerging.
Speaker John Boehner told Republicans at a closed-door conference meeting today that he would not bring an immigration bill to the floor without the support of a majority of Republican members. However, that promise does not extend to any conference report that would come after the House and Senate convene to iron out the differences of their bill.
Gohmert said his concern is the conference report could include “amnesty” and pass with mostly Democratic votes. Because of that fear, he said it is his “inclination” to vote against even enforcement-only immigration bills in the Judiciary Committee.
Sources say Representative Steve King is also contemplating the same action. Given the balance of Republicans and Democrats in Judiciary, three Republicans would need to defect on a party-line vote to stop a bill from coming forward. However, it is within the authority of GOP leadership to bypass the committee on any bill as they see fit.
At a press conference following the GOP meeting, Boehner said he “suggested to our members today that any immigration-reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a majority of both parties’ support if we’re serious about making that happen. So I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have the majority support of Republicans.”
When I asked him if the commitment to garnering the support of a majority of Republicans extended to any conference report on immigration, Boehner said, “We’ll see when we get there.”
“My concern is not that he will bring a bill to the floor without a majority of Republican support, but that we bring a bill to the floor of the House, pass that, and then it goes to conference, and then, not a bill, but a conference report comes that has amnesty and then it’s passed by a majority of Democrats,” Gohmert said.
Asked how set he was in his decision to block immigration bills in committee, Gohmert said, “When I say that’s my inclination, that’s what I mean.”
“I think the position that our conference should be in is to say, resolved, the House will not take up any immigration bill until the president first secures the border as verified by the governors of the four border states of the South. And then we get on with IRS and all these other things that we need to be working on. We shouldn’t allow the president to extort an amnesty provision just to get him to follow his oath,” he added.
Separately, the House bipartisan immigration Gang is reportedly close to releasing its proposal, although serious doubts remain, including over the role of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who may move to keep Democrats from supporting it.
Of the Gang’s bill, Democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez told National Review Online, “I’m for it, and it’s done,” but that regarding Pelosi’s view on it, “Lord knows.”
Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart also expressed concerns that Pelosi would move to undermine the yet-to-be-released bill.
Boehner also accused President Obama and Senate Democrats of working to “limit” the number of Republican votes for the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.
“I am increasingly concerned that the White House and Senate Democrats would rather have this as an issue in the 2014 elections rather than a result. It was the president who said he wanted a robust vote coming out of the Senate to help move this process along. And yet here’s the president and the Senate Democrats working to limit the number of Republican votes that this immigration bill’s likely to get. I think that’s unfortunate,” Boehner said.
Boehner met with Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican leader of the Senate Gang, last week for what was described as an informational meeting.
Boehner dismissed the content of the Senate bill in the strongest terms he has used to date. “I frankly think that the Senate bill is weak on border security, the enforcement mechanisms are weak, and the triggers are almost laughable,” he said.
Boehner also addressed recent comments from Representative Dana Rohrabacher that he “should be removed as speaker” if he brings immigration to the floor in violation of the so-called “Hastert rule,” which requires a “majority of the majority.” Boehner was actually asked whether he thought it was “likely” that he would be removed if he did so. “Maybe,” he quipped, to the loud laughter of reporters.