Heritage Action says House shouldn't pass any immigration bills

The leader of a powerful right-leaning group is urging House Republicans not to pass any immigration bills this Congress.

During an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham said the House should avoid passing immigration legislation of any kind in order to avoid a conference with the Senate. Earlier this summer, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, which has attracted strong criticism from conservatives — including GOP leaders in Congress.

"Unfortunately in this environment right now, the moment something passes the House, the press on immigration ... will immediately be back in the forefront," Needham said. "I think it will be very difficult to get away from something that looks like the Senate bill."

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Heritage Action's stance poses a headache for House GOP leaders, who are eyeing immigration votes later this year.

The House Judiciary Committee has passed a handful of narrow immigration-related bills that are very different from the Senate measure. President Obama said last week that the Senate bill has the votes to pass the House. Republican House leaders, however, have said they won't schedule a vote on the Senate bill, which includes a controversial pathway to citizenship.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped craft the Senate bill, wants the House to pass some form of immigration measure so a House-Senate conference can be convened.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recently said the House will act on various immigration bills in October. But in an interview on Fox News Sunday earlier this month, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declined to commit to a timetable, saying the lower chamber will vote on "a series of bills at some point."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Cantor are working a Republican version of the DREAM Act, though the timetable of when that bill will be released is unclear. Their bill, known as the KIDS Act, is likely to provide a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Needham declined to say if his group would "key vote" House votes on immigration. He added he supports border security enhancements, but stressed that this is not the time to focus on immigration. Needham pointed to defunding ObamaCare and the economy as more pressing issues.

Republican leaders in Congress have been noncommittal as to whether they will demand that ObamaCare funding be cut off during the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Heritage Action, which is the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, has frustrated Republican leaders on Capitol Hill by voicing strong opposition to legislation such as the farm bill and the “fiscal cliff” measure. Needham acknowledged that leadership officials have gotten upset with his group, but said there is an open line of communication.

Needham declined to criticize Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is facing a primary challenge. He did point out that Heritage Action has disagreed with McConnell on certain policy matters.

Heritage Action, which launched in 2010, doesn't endorse political candidates.

The C-SPAN interview will air Sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.