By Jared Allen - 04/16/10 09:52 PM EDT
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Friday promised
only to “address” any comprehensive immigration bill that manages to pass the
Hoyer’s caution and refusal to commit to putting an immigration reform bill on the floor if one passes the Senate casts further doubt on Congress's ability to make immigration reform a reality before the end of the year.
“The Senate has agreed to move this legislation first, and we think that's appropriate,” Hoyer said Friday in an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”
Pressed on whether “addressing” a Senate bill would mean bringing it up for a vote in the House, Hoyer responded: “If the Senate passes a bill, as I said, the Speaker and I have both indicated we will address that bill.”
“If they act, we would be prepared to act,” he said a few moments later.
Hoyer was interviewed by The Hill, The New York Times and "Newsmakers" host Greta Brawner. The program will be aired on Sunday.
Knowing an immigration debate could deeply damage their ability to hold on to their majority ahead of the midterm election, House leaders reached an agreement with their members, the White House and the Senate ensuring that the Senate would have to pass immigration legislation before the House would follow suit.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated a willingness to put a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill on the Senate calendar as early as this summer — a move that’s designed, in part, to strengthen his own reelection chances.
Hispanic Democrats, primarily in the House, have become increasingly frustrated with what they believe are a string of false promises from their leaders, including President Barack Obama, to work to pass an immigration bill this year.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and, more recently, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), a member of the House leadership, have publicly aired that frustration, and with increasing frequency. The perception that their own leaders in the House are now backtracking on an arrangement made months ago in the face of Reid's seemingly very real desire to move an immigration bill could only inflame those frustrations.
Although House leadership aides recently acknowledged that Democrats are prepared to take on a much lighter and less contentious workload following their passage of healthcare reform, Hoyer said that the House would still have the energy to address immigration before November.
But Hoyer would not say whether he'd prefer to see the Senate act this year, or if he'd rather wait until next year to face the prospect of getting an immigration bill from the Senate.
“Sen. Reid has indicated that he might be addressing this issue in the Senate as early as sometime this summer,” Hoyer said. “And that’s the judgment of the Senate, and we’ll certainly defer to Sen. Reid in making that judgment.”