By Russell Berman - 04/22/10 04:05 PM EDT
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) confirmed on Thursday that she would not object if the Senate passed an immigration overhaul before climate and energy legislation.
“If the Senate is ready with an immigration bill, we don’t want anybody holding it up for any reason,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at her weekly press conference. “Send it to us.”
The Speaker’s comments followed reports on Wednesday that she had told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a meeting that she would be “fine” with the Senate addressing immigration ahead of a climate and energy package.
While allowing for the possibility that immigration reform might move first, Pelosi emphasized that addressing energy security and climate change were “the flagship issues of her speakership.”
The House passed climate and energy legislation last year, but it has not acted on immigration reform. Pelosi reiterated that an immigration bill “must begin in the Senate,” as did House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in a separate appearance Thursday morning.
Hoyer, asked about reports that immigration had jumped ahead of climate change in the priority line, said: “I don’t know that that’s the case.”
The focus on immigration reform comes as Hispanic leaders have increased pressure on the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress to make good on their pledge to pass a comprehensive bill. One such leader, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), told The Hill that he might urge Latino voters to stay home in November if Democrats did not push the issue.
Reid has vowed to bring up immigration reform this year.
Hoyer, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, said he thought it would be difficult for the Senate to cobble together the votes to pass either comprehensive immigration reform or a climate and energy bill. He noted that one longtime champion of immigration reform, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has now backed away from the issue in the midst of a tough GOP primary fight for reelection.
Hoyer was asked if Democrats had to pass an immigration bill this year in order to mobilize Latino voters in the fall. He would not go that far. “It certainly matters that we acknowledge this is an important issue that we ought to deal with, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
Whether the House could pass an immigration bill even if it passed the Senate is unclear. Asked if she could get the votes on immigration, Pelosi replied, “I believe so.”
This story was updated at 12:05 p.m.