House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has confirmed that the House will not vote on immigration reform this year, citing lack of time as the reason.
The not-so-surprising comment comes after about a dozen pro-immigration-reform activists occupied McCarthy’s office last Thursday, hoping to pressure him into moving forward with comprehensive reform. Later that night, McCarthy confirmed that with only a few legislative days remaining once the House reconvenes after a week-long break, lawmakers would not vote on the proposed reform.
According to Angelica Salas, the board chairwoman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, McCarthy told the group that “it’s very hard to do anything in 13 days.”
Despite McCarthy’s claim, however, there was plenty of time to move on immigration reform. The House had approximately five months to consider the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate, and its present agenda is so empty that GOP leaders are considering canceling some of the remaining days in the session. And though there was an opportunity to vote on the law just days before the House took its leave, Republicans declined to bring it to the floor. Instead, they focused on passing less-controversial legislation intended to keep the spotlight on the troubled Obamacare website.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for McCarthy, Erica Elliot, maintained that McCarthy “supports fixing our broken immigration reform,” but added that he believes it is best to “address immigration reform on an issue-by-issue basis rather than demanding that any reform only happen in the context of a massive bill.”
The comments reference the piecemeal bills House Republicans have focused on since June, when the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that many on the right have condemned as an “amnesty” bill.
Though the comprehensive reform bill has stalled in the House, lawmakers did vote on one immigration reform measure this year: Republican Steve King’s (IA) amendment to defund the deferred action program, which allows undocumented youth to stay and work in the United States.
In early June, the GOP-controlled House voted to approve the amendment primarily targeting those who benefit from President Barack Obama’s executive order mirroring the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The order — which protects the same people who would be protected under the DREAM Act — ensures that undocumented aliens who arrived in the United States as children and obtain a high school diploma or the equivalent are granted permanent residency. Under the Obama administration’s deferred action program, DREAMers would not only obtain permanent resident status but would also be granted work permits — both measures King objects to.
“My amendment blocks many of the provisions that are mirrored in the Senate’s ‘Gang of Eight’ bill,” King proudly proclaimed. “If this position holds, no amnesty will reach the president’s desk.”
Less hard-line immigration opponents in the House, however, admit that legislation must be passed. Still, following the government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act and the partisan budget battle between the GOP and President Obama, Republicans in the House appeared less likely to vote on the legislation key to the president’s second-term agenda.
The move is likely to worsen the Republican Party’s long-term alienation of Latinos and immigration advocates. In a letter to top Republican leader and House Speaker John Boehner (OH), the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, described the House’s inaction to resolve the pressing “moral matter” as a “stain on the soul of the nation.”
Photo: Anuska Sampedro via Flickr