Pelosi urges House to move quickly on immigration to get to conference

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Some Democrats — notably Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSchumer: 'Good for country' if Trump punts on border wall fight GOP senator: There will never be full U.S.-Mexico border wall GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat MORE (D-N.Y.) — have suggested that the conference negotiations are doomed if the House package excludes a citizenship pathway for the nation's illegal immigrants.

But Pelosi, who has long made the citizenship pathway a condition of any reform law, has been less adamant that such a provision be a prerequisite for a House bill prior to conference. Instead, the usually opinionated Pelosi has steered clear of making specific demands, saying the Democrats are waiting to see what Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) brings to the floor before playing their hand.

"I have said to the Speaker, I'm respectful of any way that he wants to bring it to the floor — in parts or in whole or whatever it is," she told reporters in the Capitol. "But we really should get moving on it and see where there's areas of agreement where we can pass a bill so that we can go to conference and then have the further discussion."

The issue of citizenship benefits has long been among the most contentious elements of the immigration debate. President Obama and Democratic leaders have insisted that those benefits be offered to eligible illegal immigrants before they'll support any final bill. Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, are hinging their support on the exclusion of any citizenship benefits, which they consider "amnesty" for lawbreakers.

The Senate included the citizenship pathway in its immigration reform bill, which passed the upper chamber last month with a 68-32 vote. Schumer, one of the authors of that proposal, warned this week that, unless the House passed a similar citizenship provision, the conference negotiations would fail.

"To go to conference with various pieces without a path to citizenship … is a path to a cul-de-sac, to no immigration bill," he said Tuesday. "Without a path to citizenship, they [Republicans] will go to conference and just say, 'Well, take our bill without a path to citizenship.'"

Some House conservatives, meanwhile, are voicing a very different concern. They don't want to send any House proposal to a Senate conference – even those focused solely on greater enforcement efforts – for fear that the citizenship benefits will inevitably become a part of the final package.

“Any vehicle that we send over to the Senate is potentially a conference-able bill," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told Newsmax TV this week. "And if we send that over to the Senate, you know Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE can just put a little bit of language in there that guts it or actually strikes it all out, put in the Senate's Gang of Eight amnesty bill and send it back to us."

House Republicans huddled in the Capitol Wednesday for a two-and-a-half hour meeting that did more to highlight the party's divisions on the issue than it did reveal a strategy for responding to the Senate bill.

Pelosi on Thursday urged GOP leaders to put aside those differences and let the legislative process work itself out.

"Why would we delay? Why don't we just get about the business of doing a bill?" she asked.