House 'Gang of Eight' reaches immigration reform compromise
Ready or not, here it comes. Democratic and Republican House members have achieved an agreement on immigration reform and the bi-partisan bill will be taken up sometime next month.
The final sticking point, according to congressional sources, was over whether illegal immigrants now in the United States who gain legal status under the bill could participate in the new healthcare law known as "Obamacare," which Republicans want to repeal.
None of the negotiators would comment on how the matter was resolved. Nor would they provide other details of the deal.
Even with Thursday's breakthrough, the drive to enact a comprehensive immigration bill, which is President Barack Obama's top legislative priority, faces a long, difficult road in Congress.
The agreement still must be drafted into legislation for review by the 435 members of the House. Then it faces a potentially tough battle in the House Judiciary Committee, where several conservative Republicans have been dead-set against a comprehensive bill. Instead, they mostly want to pass tougher border security measures and allow U.S. companies to get better access to foreign high-tech workers.
Any proposal to provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people now in the United States illegally, which is part of a Senate bill, is certain to draw fierce opposition from some Republican quarters.
Furthermore, the House bill will not fully conform to the measure winding its way through the Democratic-controlled Senate.
"There are going to be a lot of differences in a lot of areas" between the House and Senate bills, said Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, one of the House negotiators.
The tentative deal, he added, is "the first step of a difficult process. But it's a very important step."
Do the scandals make it more or less difficult to pass immigration reform? I think the scandals will impact the process only tangentially, as a distraction from the business at hand. Two issues have the potential to kill immigration reform; border security and path to citizenship. Immigration foes in the House are united in seeing some kind of promise to deal with the crisis on our southern border while most Republicans adamantly oppose a path to citizenship for illegals after any length of time.
It remains to be seen what can pass the senate and if they can strike a deal with House negotiators in conference. There is a chance that the differences will be just too wide to bridge and immigration reform would die.