Senators urge House to take up immigration reform

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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After the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act passed in the Senate Thursday, lawmakers are wasting no time encouraging the lower chamber to take up reform.

“Take up immigration on your own timetable and the way you would like to see it happen — just address the issue,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham said Thursday. “If you don’t like our bill, do one of your own.”

Graham, a “Gang of Eight” member who co-sponsored and co-authored the Senate bill, expressed optimism about passage through the House, and said the Senate was sending the bill out “with a lot of wind to its back.”

“I don’t think they’re going to shy away from it — I mean, folks in the House aren’t afraid of dealing with tough issues,” Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss told reporters Thursday. “The end result they want to achieve, I just think, is going to be entirely different from the approach over here.”

In a press conference following the Senate vote, several Gang of Eight senators together urged the House to tackle their own version of immigration form without delay — after which both chambers can conference a compromise on a single version for the president to sign.

“The bill has generated a level of (bipartisan) support that we believe it will be impossible for the House to ignore,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said. “In the coming months, our colleagues in the House will hear a drum beat of support for our bill that will start tomorrow and won’t let up.”

The 68-32 vote, including 14 Republicans, will likely face a tough fight in the hardline-conservative controlled House, where Speaker John Boehner said this morning he will subject any immigration legislation to the Hastert Rule — meaning a majority of Republicans will have to support the bill before it can come to the floor.

“We want to carefully address this with our House colleagues respecting the equal role they play in crafting any legislation,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said after the vote. “One thing I am confident that the members of the House agree on, and that is the status quo of de facto amnesty of 11 million people in this country is unacceptable.”

Senators opposing the bill were equally candid in expressing their feeling to the House, where they hope the changes and amendments defeated in the Senate stand a better chance of making it into the final bill.

“I think this is halftime in the game, because certainly no matter what the Senate does, the House has a different approach, and I think in all probability the bill will continue to move in a direction that the House would favor,” Texas Republican Whip Sen. John Cornyn said. “I would actually like to see an immigration reform bill, but not this one.”

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the most outspoken members against immigration reform, expects the House to break the Senate bill down into separate pieces of legislation for individual consideration.

“They’re going to be much more tough,” the Texas Republican said prior to Thursday’s vote. “But I think they have intentions of getting a bill to conference.”

In response to the Hastert Rule roadblock laid down by Speaker Boehner this morning, New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer had one final piece of parting advice for the House.

“You’ll get many House members saying ‘I wish it would pass, but I don’t want to vote for it.’ There’s a logical solution — put the bill on the floor, and it will pass. And many of those who don’t want to vote for it on the Republican side won’t have to,” Schumer said.

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