With the Senate poised to end debate on and pass its own comprehensive immigration reform bill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) significantly narrowed the legislative path toward making it law.
At is weekly Capitol briefing Thursday, Boehner extended his requirement that immigration legislation enjoy the approval of at least half of his members to any final agreement between the House and the Senate, known as a conference report.To be clear that doesn’t preclude a change of heart, or a procedural way around the so-called Hastert rule. But it does add a new layer of difficulty to enacting comprehensive reform.
To reach a conference committee, the House will have to pass legislation of its own. That will be a tall order for Boehner, who won’t be able to count on much, if any Democratic support for measures that lack a viable amnesty provision for current undocumented immigrants.
If he can pass a narrow, conservative House position, the Senate and House can try to merge their dramatically different bills. But by extending the Hastert rule requirement to the negotiated agreement, Boehner is effectively warning senators that House negotiators won’t simply roll over for the Senate bill in conference committee.
It’s extremely hard to imagine an immigration reform bill that wins over a majority of House Republicans, that the Senate will accept, and that President Obama will sign.
It’s possible that Boehner won’t be able to pass a House immigration bill of any kind, and if that’s the case, Boehner would have to re-evaluate his long-standing commitment not to put the Senate bill on the floor. But he’s been pretty clear that — at the very least — the House won’t take action on the Senate bill as its first option, and that the House will attempt to act on its own measure first.