Although the visa reform bill easily cleared the House, it has little chance of movement in the Senate due to strong opposition from the White House. House GOP members argued that the passage of the bill shows they are the ones jumpstarting the drive toward immigration reform.
"Once again the House is taking the lead on legislation that's going to create jobs to help the economy," said Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersLobbying world The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan The one Trump pick leaving greens hopeful MORE (R-Wash.), the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.
The Democrats "had two years to do something about immigration reform" but ignored the issue while they held the majority in both chambers of Congress, said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).
"They had the White House, they had the House, they had the Senate and they did nothing," Labrador said.
Obama has signaled that one of the top priorities of his second term is to move a comprehensive immigration reform package through Congress. Republicans, who saw former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney rejected soundly by Latino voters on Nov. 6, have expressed a new willingness to work with the president toward that goal.
The White House this week said it would not support any immigration legislation that does not mend the broken system in a comprehensive fashion.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the ball is now in the Senate Democrats' court when it comes to tackling visa reform to keep foreign-born graduates with master's and Ph.D.s in science, math, tech and engineering fields (STEM) in the United States.
"Since [Democrats] are in the majority, they have the choice to do something good for America and for 55,000 people and to do it now, or admit that they simply don't care about STEM, because this is as clean a STEM bill as you can possibly get," he said.