GOP lawmaker: Immigration debate could get ‘ugly’

But the Florida lawmaker predicted that the House would eventually join the Senate in overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

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“Ultimately, however, I’m optimistic that the vast majority of the members in the House and the Senate, and the country, more importantly, recognize that we have a system that doesn’t work,” said Diaz-Balart. “Ultimately, I think what will prevail is the desire to fix a system that everybody recognizes is broken.”

The Senate last week passed the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan immigration reform proposal in a 68-32 vote, gaining the support of 14 Republicans. Proponents of reform hope that will build momentum heading to the House, but immigration reform faces an uphill climb there with conservative lawmakers demaniding tougher border enforcement and opposing  measures providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. 

Speaker John Boehner has said he will not move legislation that does not have support of the majority of the GOP conference. Boehner has also vowed not to adopt the Senate bill, insisting that the House will pass its own immigration bill.

Diaz-Balart said the House group was reviewing their immigration proposal, but declined to provide a timeline for the unveiling of the plan.

“We finalized it. It’s already now been drafted. We’ve just got to make sure that all the agreements that we made are reflected exactly as we agreed to them in the drafting,” he said. “It just takes time.”

He also defended Boehner’s pledge to only move bills with majority GOP support.

“I think you have to get the majority of the Republicans, you have to get hopefully the majority of the minority, of the Democrats,” said Diaz-Balart. 

“This is too complex, too difficult, too controversial to try to believe that we can ram it down anybody’s throat,” he said.