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

Some Democrats — notably Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting 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 Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism 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 Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle 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.