Boehner’s immigration move

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday attempted to calm his restless GOP conference by saying he would abide by the “Hastert Rule” on immigration.

“I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans,” Boehner told reporters after meeting with his GOP colleagues.

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But he was less clear when asked if he would abide by the rule on a House-Senate conference report on immigration.

“We’ll see when we get there,” Boehner responded.

The Hill reported over the weekend that Boehner faces many big decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

Last week, he endorsed the House farm bill, which is opposed by some conservatives. His embrace of the so-called Hastert Rule for immigration reform will placate some, but only temporarily. He is shortly going to face the same decision over whether to respect the “majority of the majority” on other issues, such as a government shutdown and raising the federal debt limit. 

But immigration is now front and center. The Senate will probably pass a bipartisan bill soon that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday said Boehner would feel tremendous pressure to pass the Senate bill.

The Speaker has other plans, however.

He and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are steering the chamber toward passing several narrow immigration reform bills rather than one big one. They will include a guest worker program and mandating E-Verify.

Barring setbacks in the House and Senate, both chambers will go into an immigration reform conference later this year. But despite widespread expectations, a new immigration law this year is not a sure thing.

The House passed an amendment this month that would defund President Obama’s order that allows government officials to focus deportation efforts on illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.

Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment, which passed mostly along party lines, shows how far apart the House and Senate are on immigration.

National leaders in the GOP say immigration reform must pass. But there are many House Republicans concerned that they would be challenged in a primary if they were to support legislation that looks like the Senate bill.

Boehner is attempting to move his colleagues toward action, and knows that without it, his party could be punished at the polls by Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing demographic.

But he can only push his members so far. Boehner has left open the possibility of violating the Hastert Rule on a final bill though that could threaten his Speakership.