Broad Immigration Bill Has Chance in House, Lawmaker Says

A Republican advocate for revising U.S. immigration laws said a bipartisan, comprehensive proposal can overcome opposition from his party and pass the House.

Speaking a day after the Senate approved immigration legislation with strong bipartisan support, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, said yesterday that the House can also push through a broad bill.

“You’re going to see ups and downs, you’re going to see ugly things. You’re going to see things that we don’t like,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg’s Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. Ultimately, “in order to pass legislation, I think there’d have to be something similar to what we’ve been working on.”

Joining Democrats June 27 in supporting the Senate’s immigration legislation -- the most significant in a generation -- were 14 Republicans who argued their party needed to stem election losses with Hispanic voters.

In addition to creating a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., the measure would direct $46.3 billion toward securing the border with Mexico -- the costliest border-protection plan ever for the U.S., added to gain Republican backing.

Top Republicans in the House of Representatives have said they won’t take up the Senate’s measure and instead will focus on narrower measures. Many House Republicans oppose legal status for undocumented immigrants already in the country.

Business Support

A White House official expressed confidence that immigration legislation can get through the House before the end of the year, saying that backing from business groups, religious leaders, labor and technology companies will pressure the Republican majority to take action.

“The reason this is going to happen is because there is so much support all over the country,” White House domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz, said in a separate interview on “Political Capital.”

“The country is for this and I think ultimately the House of Representatives will be, too,” Munoz said.

Diaz-Balart, part of a seven-member group that has been working on an immigration overhaul for more than four years, said the House isn’t going to “feel pressure” now that the Senate has passed its bill.

“The real pressure is the pressure is to fix the immigration system that’s broken,” Diaz-Balart said yesterday at an event sponsored by Bloomberg Government.

Boehner Pledge

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has pledged to keep any proposal that isn’t backed by a majority of his caucus from reaching the floor, though he’s acknowledged an immigration bill will need substantial Democratic support.

He has turned to Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to set the pace for the House efforts. Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, prefers dividing immigration legislation into smaller bills.

So far, the judiciary panel has approved measures creating a farm guest-worker program, strengthening enforcement of immigration laws, expanding an electronic-verification program for employers and increasing the pool of highly skilled foreign workers.

Goodlatte said yesterday that House Republicans think the Senate bill will give “a legal status to 11 million people virtually immediately,” before the government implements an employment-verification system, stronger border security and a visa system to track entries and exits.

‘Another Wave’

People who aren’t in the U.S. legally “want to have a legal status here,” Goodlatte said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Peter Cook for “Capitol Gains” airing tomorrow. “That’s a worthwhile objective, but we think it shouldn’t happen until you have the -– the assurance that we’re not going to have another wave of illegal immigration.”

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who’s a member of the judiciary panel and the group working on a comprehensive measure, called some of the separate bills “absurd” and said there’s still time to contribute to a bipartisan House bill.

“We have the capacity to greatly impact the path forward,” Lofgren said at the Bloomberg Government event.

A major issue that the bipartisan House group can influence is getting 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “right with the law,” Lofgren said.

Goodlatte said the judiciary panel may rely on the bipartisan group’s proposal, “particularly” for the “legalization part.”

‘Bipartisan Basis’

“We’re very interested in seeing what kind of consensus can be developed in the House on a bipartisan basis,” Goodlatte said in the interview.

While the House members haven’t introduced a plan, their discussions and draft legislation have included a path to citizenship for those immigrants.

“We have to deal with the reality, whether we like it or not, that there are millions of people who are here,” Diaz-Balart said on “Political Capital.”

“We have to figure out a way that they can come out of the shadows,” Diaz-Balart said. “Those that have committed crimes have to be dealt with in one way: zero tolerance. They’ve got to be out of here. And then give those who have been here for many, many years, who have been working, a way to earn their way into legalization.”

Student Loans

Munoz, who oversees the president’s domestic-policy initiatives, also pushed for a resolution of a congressional dispute over student loan rates, which are set to double on July 1. Lawmakers in the Senate were unable to craft a proposal that could win passage before the deadline.

The interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans, available to undergraduates from low-income families, will increase to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. More than 7 million students use that direct-from-Washington loan program.

Munoz said any fix crafted by lawmakers to lower the rates could be applied retroactively.

“If it takes past July 1, it’s still imperative to act as quickly as possible,” she said.

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