House GOP campaign chief: Immigration vote 'probably months out'

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — The House GOP campaign chief on Thursday said any floor vote on immigration reform is “probably months out,” downplaying the possibility that the party will move quickly to legislation after considering a series of leadership principles this week.

“When you lay out a major policy initiative like immigration, I don’t know when it’s going to appear on the schedule,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “My hunch is it doesn’t come up, you know, tomorrow. It’s probably months out.”

Walden, a member of the GOP leadership, cautioned that he does not control the House floor schedule. But he voiced little concern that a push on immigration would bring the political risk of primary challengers for Republican members.

The House is likely to consider its annual budget proposal first, Walden said, meaning immigration reform would not come up until later in the spring.

“Most of the primaries will have ended by then, and by the time you get to June, most of them are behind you,” he noted.

In additional to the substance of legislation, the timing of a move on immigration is the subject of intense debate among Republicans. Some advocates of reform want to move quickly to build momentum and allow time for negotiations with the Senate, while others want to wait until after primary deadlines.

Whether the House will advance legislation at all is unclear. The leadership is presenting principles to members in a session later Thursday, and the response of the rank and file will determine whether there is a consensus to move forward.

Speaking to reporters at the retreat, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) echoed the concerns of other conservatives on immigration, saying that while it was “important” to rally behind principles, it might not be the right time to push further with specific legislation that could split the conference.

“I don’t think it’s strategy for us to divide ourselves,” he said.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said he was ready to tackle immigration reform, even if some of his colleagues were not.

“I’m willing to take up this issue at any time,” he said.