Dem negotiator: '218 votes' in House for immigration reform

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Saturday expressed optimism that political momentum will push comprehensive immigration legislation through the House.

"Guess what? 218 votes exists in the House of Representatives. A number of Republicans and Democrats together, we can pass comprehensive immigration reform today in the House of Representatives, and that's a huge change," Gutierrez said during a panel on immigration reform at the NetRoots Nation convention in San Jose, Calif.

Yet Gutierrez, a major player on immigration in the House, noted that the immigration bill will likely not be perfect and concessions will need to be made to win Republican votes.

"There will be concessions, because they're in the majority and we've got to get them," he said. 

The Senate is slated to wrap up work on the Gang of Eight's immigration bill on Thursday, but the path forward on immigration legislation in the House is somewhat unclear.

The House Judiciary Committee is currently marking up a series of individual bills that tackle different issues in the immigration debate, while a bipartisan group of House members is finalizing language on a comprehensive immigration measure.

Gutierrez, a member of that bipartisan group and the Judiciary panel, said it will be key for the public to rally support for the comprehensive bill after the Senate passes its legislation. He also criticized the merits of the immigration bills currently being marked up in the Judiciary Committee.

"In the Senate, they're going to pass a bill and that's a good thing. That's going to be done, then we need to carry that momentum and focus on the House. By that time, [House Judiciary] Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and the Republicans on Judiciary will have approved five or six different bills, none of which really does anything to change things for the good for our immigrant community," Gutierrez said.

"That is going to be the moment that we, as a pro-immigrant community, are going to have to get behind a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) blasted the immigration legislation being considered in the Judiciary Committee, saying the panel is "marking up some truly terrible bills."

"[There's] one bill that would make everyone in America without their papers a federal criminal. Another bill that would essentially, if implemented, would require self-deportation of 1.7 million migrant farmworkers…bizarre bills, in my judgment," said Lofgren, a member of the Judiciary panel and the bipartisan working group, during the panel discussion.

"I think our bipartisan bill has the capacity of dealing with the defects in what the Republicans are doing in the Judiciary Committee," she said.

The bipartisan group is finalizing language in its comprehensive bill to ensure that it preserves the principles that members agreed to last month, according to Lofgren.

Despite the long road of work ahead, Lofgren said she is "cautiously optimistic" that the House can pass an immigration bill.

"There's a lot of potential, theoretically, for stumbling on this process," she said. "But we've worked very hard and I'm cautiously optimistic that we will be successful."

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