Republicans will suffer in this year’s elections if the U.S. House doesn’t pass a comprehensive immigration plan because voters may doubt they’ll ever do it, said Democratic Representative Joe Crowley of New York.
Republican leaders “have come up with a lot of excuses” for not advancing immigration legislation, Crowley, the fifth-ranking House Democrat, said in an interview yesterday at Bloomberg News in New York.
“If we don’t get something done between now and July, there’s really no time left to get something done” as lawmakers focus on campaigning for November’s vote, said Crowley. “And that’s something I think they’ll pay dearly for at the polls.”
The Senate passed a bill last year, S. 744, that would increase border security while providing a pathway to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S.
House Republican leaders said they wouldn’t take up the Senate bill, and in January they released a list of principles for piecemeal immigration legislation, starting with border security. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, later said it would be difficult to pass a bill because members of his caucus don’t trust President Barack Obama to enforce the law.
Crowley said action on immigration “really comes down to Speaker Boehner” and whether he’ll allow a vote on a bill that could pass with mostly Democratic votes. “That’s what we’ve done on just about any major piece of legislation in the House the past few years,” he said.
“As the speaker has said, the need to fix our broken immigration system is clear,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an e-mail, “but, at this point, neither Congress nor the American people trust the president to enforce the law as written. It is difficult to see how we make progress until that changes.”
Crowley, 52, was first elected to the House in 1998 and represents a district comprising parts of New York City’s Bronx and Queens boroughs. His district overwhelmingly backs immigration law changes, he said. Crowley was arrested in October at a rally near the Capitol demanding action on immigration legislation.
Although business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support immigration legislation, Crowley said many Republicans, including those running in primaries trying to appeal to the limited government Tea Party movement, have “poisoned the well” in their party for passing an immigration plan.
Representative Paul Broun, seeking a Senate nomination in Georgia in a primary in which two other two other House Republicans also are running, said at a debate this week that a bill including what he called amnesty for undocumented immigrants would only pass “over my dead body.”
“No amnesty,” said Phil Gingrey, one of the other House Republicans vying for the open Georgia Senate seat. “Never.”
Crowley said immigration is one of several issues where Republicans will be hurt in the November midterm elections because the party doesn’t have a vision for the country. Most major bills that have cleared the House this year, including domestic violence prevention legislation and raising the U.S. debt limit, have relied on Democrats to pass.
“The Republican Party shut down the United States government for over two weeks; that’s the accomplishment on their side,” Crowley said, referring to the partial closure of the government last October in a fiscal standoff with Obama.
On the push to revise the U.S. tax code, Crowley said House leaders probably won’t bring up a proposal by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican who isn’t seeking re-election, that would lower tax rates and curtail dozens of tax breaks.
“I don’t see the Camp bill moving,” said Crowley, a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
House Republican leaders, in touting their performance, point to 224 bills the chamber has passed -- addressing job training, easing regulations and boosting energy production -- that the Senate hasn’t taken action on, according to a bill tracker from the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican. Another 99 have been signed into law.
Democrats hold 199 House seats to 233 for Republicans, with three seats vacant. While most nonpartisan analysts rate the Republicans as heavy favorites to keep their majority, Crowley said he believes Democratic chances are good in November.
“I just think we’re going to win back the House,” he said. “I’m going to guess we’ll have at least 19 seats” as a net gain.
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