Chamber pushes Boehner to pass immigration bill

Business and progressive groups rallied at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Oct. 29 to reassure Speaker of the House John Boehner that he’ll get their political support if he schedules a major vote on immigration.

“He’s said in the press that the House should take up immigration reform and he plans to do it,” said Randel Johnson, the chamber’s vice president for immigration.

“I think he want to get this done, but it is our job to show that there is support in the business community and the evangelical community and in other conservative Republican groups that they’ll be there to back him up when he makes his decisions,” he told The Daily Caller.

“We’ve got his back,” said Johnson, a former congressional staffer, who has known Boehner for 20 years.

The chamber is not pushing Boehner to pass the Senate bill on the House floor. “We have always said that the House has its own process and should move the different bills in a way they see appropriate,” said a chamber official. The chamber wants a “common sense immigration reform” bill, the official said.

But critics fear that if the House approves even a small immigration bill, Boehner would allow the subsequent joint House and Senate conference committee to create an ambitious bill similar to the Senate bill, and he would send that bill to the House floor for a vote.

If Boehner schedules a floor vote on the Senate bill or on a joint conference report similar to the Senate bill, it would likely pass, despite strenuous opposition from GOP-friendly and single-issue groups.

The bill would pass because almost the entire Democratic caucus will support the ambitious bill. Business lobbies and progressive reporters could concentrate their efforts to persuade roughly 20 GOP legislators to approve the unpopular bill.

The opponents include conservatives, tea party groups and organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA. Many polls show the Senate bill is unpopular among swing voters, and especially among GOP-leaning voters.

Also, numerous GOP legislators say President Barack Obama can’t be trusted to negotiate or implement his side of any immigration deal.

If approved by the House, the Senate’s immigration bill would bring in two million working-age immigrants and almost two million guest workers a year — or roughly one person for each of the four million Americans who will turn 18 that year. Overall, the bill would ensure the award roughly 33 million green cards to illegal immigrants and new immigrants over the next decade, in a time of accelerating automation, high unemployment, declining wages, and increasing public worries about the future.

Surveys also shows that new immigrants, especially lower skilled Latinos, vote for Democratic candidates by lopsided margins.

So far, Boehner has equivocated.

He has said that he supports aspects of the Senate bill, and has approved the drafting by GOP legislators of several House bill that would increase the inflow of guest workers. But he has not scheduled a floor vote during the remaining weeks of the contentious session.