Hoyer: GOP leaders have no coherent message for passing immigration reform

Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said he remains "hopeful" that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can rally his troops behind a comprehensive plan for fixing the nation's defective immigration system. But with Republicans on and off Capitol Hill deeply divided on the issue, Hoyer said GOP leaders have no cohesive design for bridging the gaps and passing reforms anytime soon.

"I don't know that the Republican leadership has a strategy that is workable," Hoyer said Wednesday during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Hoyer cited an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, published Wednesday, declaring that Republicans are "splintered and confused on immigration," leaving the party "with no coherent or winning message."

"That's the Wall Street Journal, I want to make it clear," Hoyer said.

House Republicans are meeting Wednesday afternoon for a high-stakes discussion on the party's immigration strategy moving forward. The Senate last month passed a comprehensive reform bill with a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but House conservatives have rejected the citizenship and border-security provisions of that package, and Boehner has vowed not to bring it to the floor.

Instead, House Republicans have focused on more limited proposals largely designed to bolster border security and internal enforcement of existing immigration laws. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned this week, however, that upper-chamber Democrats won't be willing to go to conference with any House package that lacks the citizenship benefits.

The immigration reform issue gained a great deal of steam after November's elections, with GOP leaders like Boehner vowing to join President Obama in passing reforms this year. But the recent impasse has raised real doubts whether Congress can get over its differences and send a bill to the president's desk.

Hoyer said he's holding out hope, even as neither side seems prepared to budge on the citizenship issue.

"I am hopeful that John Boehner will find a way to get to a positive response to the Senate bill, and that we can move forward on a comprehensive package which will, in fact, provide a pathway to citizenship [for illegal immigrants]," Hoyer said.