Gutierrez: 'The majority already exists' on immigration reform

Comprehensive immigration reform would pass the House today if GOP leaders would bring it to the floor, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Wednesday. 

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"The question isn't whether or not there are 218 votes. There are probably 235, 240 votes for comprehensive immigration reform," Gutierrez said Wednesday in an interview with MSNBC. "Maybe not the Senate bill, but for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship and a broad pathway to legalization."

The Illinois Democrat, a long-time proponent of overhauling the nation's immigration system to prioritize immigrant rights, is calling on Republican leaders to abandon the so-called "Hastert Rule."

That unwritten guideline, named for former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), dictates that a bill must have the support of most of the majority party before it receives a vote on the floor – something Gutierrez said defies the most basic tenets of democracy.

"Let me see, there's 234 Republicans, so 118 members have to first agree before 435 of us can vote," he said. "That's pretty anti-democratic."

"The majority," he added, "already exists."

The Senate in June passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with broad bipartisan support, but Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has refused to consider it on the floor. Instead, GOP leaders are promoting a piecemeal approach that's focused on increased border security and heightened interior enforcement but excludes a path to citizenship.

Boehner has said repeatedly that he won't consider any immigration bill that lacks support from a majority of his GOP conference – a notion reinforced this week by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

"We should pass what the House majority of the majority is willing to support, and that's as far as we should go," Goodlatte said after a town-hall event in Verona, Va., according to The Huffington Post.

Gutierrez said he's hoping Republicans supportive of comprehensive reform — including national figures like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — will convince House GOP leaders to consider such a bill before year's end. If not, he warned, the Republicans risk a backlash from Hispanic voters that could haunt them in national elections for many cycles to come.

"The Republican Party can decide if it wants to be a party of provinces and states and localities," he said, "but it will never be a national party ever again."