The Senate had its turn. Now it’s up to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to take up the immigration reform issue. Just like in the Senate, there will be key players to watch in the House as the immigration reform debate heats up there. Who are they? Here’s a look at who those key House members are so far.
Top lawmakers to watch for in House immigration reform debate
Gang of Seven
Seven House members want to deal with the immigration issue in a comprehensive way, instead of the piece-by-piece approach many House Republicans support. The bipartisan group is on the verge of releasing an immigration reform package, which is likely to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and strict border security measures. The unveiling is expected to happen sometime this month.
The group is made up of four Democrats and three Republicans. On the Democratic side:
- Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who rejoined the House Judiciary Committee this year to advocate for immigration reform;
- Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), a longtime advocate for immigration reform;
- Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a top ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee;
- and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who said he supports a comprehensive immigration reform bill with “the best possible border security.”
On the Republican side:
- Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who has critiqued the way his party talks about immigration;
- John Carter (R-Tex.), a supporter of having certain triggers be met before undocumented immigrants can be legalized;
- and Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), who voted against the 2007 immigration reform bill.
Rep. John Boehner
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) could be holding the key to pass immigration reform in the House.
As Speaker of the House, he will decide whether or not to bring immigration reform legislation to the House floor for a vote. And so far, the chances of that happening are dim. That’s because he has pledged to block a vote on any immigration reform bill that doesn’t have backing from a majority of House Republicans.
As for moving forward with the Senate-approved immigration reform in the House floor, Boehner has been clear on what he plans to do on that end. He told reporters last week:
“Apparently some haven’t gotten the message: The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We’re going to do our own bill… and move the legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people.”
Rep. Paul Ryan
Convincing enough House Republicans to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship won’t be easy. However, with the help of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), it is not impossible.
The former vice presidential candidate is emerging as a key player that could help convince House conservatives to get behind the immigration reform bill being crafted by the House bipartisan group.
Ryan has been seen teaming up with Gutierrez to advocate for the bill. Reuters reports he has also been meeting with House conservatives to persuade them that immigration reform with a path to citizenship is an economic necessity and critical to fixing the nation’s fiscal problems. And he argues on his website, “We can no longer afford to neglect our broken immigration process.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte
A pathway to citizenship is at the core of the Senate’s immigration reform bill, and it is also likely to be a key part of the House immigration reform bill being crafted by the House bipartisan group. But if Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has his way, any immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship will not pass in the House.
Goodlatte, who holds a powerful seat as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday he won’t support any proposal that offers a “special pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants. Instead, the Republican congressman said he prefers a pathway to legal status, as well as a piecemeal approach to immigration.
Rep. Trey Gowdy
As chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and border security, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is proving to be an influential voice representing immigration hardliners. He has already been successful in introducing an immigration bill that would make an unlawful presence in the United States a federal crime, which the Judiciary Committee approved.
Gowdy is also one of the vocal House members rejecting suggestions from Senate Gang of Eight members — including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — who say House Republicans should support the Senate-approved immigration reform bill if they want the GOP to remain competitive.
In a recent interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Gowdy said:
“I was moved almost to the point of tears by Sen. Schumer’s concern for the future prospects of the Republican Party, but we are not going to take his advice. The Senate bill is not going to pass in the House. It’s not going to pass for myriad reasons.”
Rep. Steve King
On the House side, one of the most vocal opponents of immigration reform with a path to citizenship is Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).
King responded to last week’s Senate vote to pass the immigration reform bill saying:
“This artificial victory for the senators in the Gang of Eight marks a very disappointing day for our country.”
He also voiced his opposition to the Senate bill two weeks ago at a rally he led outside the U.S. Capitol, which attracted thousands of tea party followers who also oppose the bill.
But King isn’t just talk. Sitting on the House Judiciary Committee, he has offered tough immigration proposals. Most recently, he filed an amendment — which the House Judiciary Committee approved — to defund the Obama administration’s deferred action program, which gives work permits and deportation reprieve to some undocumented young immigrants.
As the immigration reform debate heats up in the House, it is almost certain King will bring up other tough immigration proposals.