Republicans Highlight Immigration Reform as Priority in 2014

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Republican House leaders on Wednesday expressed a desire to tackle immigration reform in 2014. During a meeting, lawmakers said that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) included an overhaul of the immigration system in priorities for the legislative year.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) discussed Boehner’s remarks with The Wall Street Journal. “This is an issue we have to deal with and I continue to believe that,’” Salmon reports Boehner told Republicans during the meeting. Boehner also said a set of Republican principles would also be released sometime in the coming weeks.

Previously, Boehner had stated that prior to a plan for immigration reform being presented, Republican standards on immigration would be issued.

Comprehensive immigration reform was passed by the Senate during the summer, but the issue failed to gain support in the House. It is unlikely that similar broad legislation will be attempted by House Republicans. Instead, many believe a step-by-step approach will be the format pursued.

One leadership aide told the Washington Post that no discussion “about going to conference with the Senate’s comprehensive bill” took place on Wednesday. “The speaker and the conference are focused on commonsense reforms and that will be laid out in the principles,” the aide said.

In November, President Barack Obama reiterated his stance that he could support a more piecemeal approach if a single, all-inclusive bill was not possible. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal CEO Council, the president said if Republicans “want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like as long as it’s actually delivering on those core values that we talk about.”

Politico warns that there will be a tight timeframe for passing any immigration legislation. “For many members, they’d be more comfortable when their primaries are over,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said. In addition to Republican members worrying about how to sell immigration reform to unenthusiastic districts, the House will be fighting a packed legislative schedule that includes the farm bill and debt ceiling negotiations.

But immigration reform is key for the party overall. Daniel Horowitz, director of the Madison Project, a conservative organization, outlined the importance immigration plays for the future of the party. “Immigration policy is absolutely one of the biggest concerns for conservatives in the coming years, and it will definitely be a make-or-break issue with candidates,” he said in an email to Politico. “Whereas a few years ago, this issue was basically dormant, it is now something we feel all our candidates must get right.”

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