By Alexander Bolton - 07/14/13 05:26 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Sunday urged Republicans in the House to move on immigration reform legislation.
Even though McConnell voted against the Senate immigration reform bill, he hopes the House will pass something that can be melded with the Senate proposal in conference negotiations.
He said the Senate bill is “deficient” on border security, even though it included an amendment to double the number of border patrol agents to 40,000 and spend an additional $38 billion on border security. The bill spends a total of $46 billion on securing the U.S.-Mexico border.
McConnell said border security is a bigger issue for him than the question of putting an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.
“The question is can we actually get the border secure and not have this happen again? That's the stickiest issue,” he said. “And I think the House will concentrate on that, I hope they will. We need to seriously beef up the border security part. I think that's the key to getting a final outcome.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not schedule a vote on the Senate bill in the House and that any bill that he brings to the floor must have majority support within the House Republican conference.
House Republicans are expected to move immigration reform piecemeal with a series of smaller bills. Legislation eventually granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants is not expected to be one of the proposals advanced by the House GOP leadership.
The lower chamber may consider committee-passed proposals to bolster border security and interior enforcement before the August recess.
The House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees have approved five pieces of immigration legislation, so far.
Not all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country are expected to apply for the path to citizenship as defined in the Senate bill.
The Congressional Budget Office projected that there could still be as many as seven million illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2023 if the Senate bill became law.
Conservative critics of the bill have noted that 40 percent of illegal immigrants are in the country because they overstayed visas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) predicted on “Meet the Press” that the House would act on the issue.
“They will act,” he said. “They have to. This is something that — the vast, vast majority of the Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support. And John Boehner should let the House vote. That's all he has to do. If the House voted, it would pass overwhelmingly.”