House to leave town without holding a vote on immigration reform

House Republicans plan to leave Washington for the summer without holding a vote on immigration reform.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Friday released a schedule for next week that does not include a vote on an immigration bill, dashing the hopes of Democrats who were pushing for a vote that might set up a House-Senate conference on immigration.

The House will instead work on a 2014 spending bill and several bills aimed at increasing government accountability before skipping town for a five-week recess that will last until the second week of September.

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Democrats had hoped the House would be able to pass some form of immigration legislation before August, which might then have been used to start meetings with the Senate. House GOP leaders are known to support a piecemeal approach that does not include a pathway toward citizenship for illegal residents, but even passage of a narrow bill might have been enough to start bicameral talks.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Cantor said previously that they hoped to move one or more immigration bills before August.

But those hopes faded in recent weeks, and leadership aides have said it is "highly unlikely" that the House would act on immigration legislation before the fall.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday said GOP leaders have a tentative plan to take up a series of immigration bills in October.

"Tentatively, in October, we're going to vote on a border security bill, an interior enforcement bill, a bill for legal immigration,” Ryan said at a town hall in Racine, Wis.

Many Republicans have said openly that they don't want to pass any bill, since they fear a House-Senate conference might agree to some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants that would be jammed through Congress.

But Democrats see a conference as a critical step toward passing a bill this year, and are likely to criticize Republicans next week for dodging the issue.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated this week that she would support any path that gets to a conference with the Senate.

"Whatever it is, whatever the path is, we have to find a path to go to conference to come up with a bill that the president will sign, that we can all support in a bipartisan way, and recognizes that we will have some unease," she said. "As I said to you before, there are some poison pills. But they are not lethal, and we can live with that."

The absence of an immigration vote is not a total surprise, however, as even President Obama has said in recent interviews that he no longer expects a House vote before August.

"I don't think that we're gonna see it before the August recess," Obama told Telemundo in an interview Tuesday. "That was originally my hope and my goal, and if in fact the House recognized the smart thing, the right thing to do, was to go ahead and send the Senate bull to the floor for a vote, I think it would pass tomorrow."

One major problem is that bipartisan immigration legislation from the House's Group of Seven is not expected to be introduced until sometime after the House leaves for August.