Immigration protesters in the Hart Senate Office Building. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker John A. Boehner looked to cut off a budding revolt Tuesday when he told his fellow Republicans that he couldn’t see a way to bring a bill to the floor without majority GOP support — a move that alarmed Democrats and appeared to shrink the chances of a bill reaching the president’s desk.
Boehner’s move was just one of many scenes from a day fraught with peril and promise for an immigration overhaul — from a vote to make illegal immigrants criminals in the House Judiciary Committee to a Congressional Budget Office score that found the Senate bill would cut the deficit by about $900 billion over the next 20 years.
‘Hastert Rule’ Showdown
Boehner has been coming under pressure in the past week over the “Hastert rule,” the practice of only bringing legislation to the floor that a majority of the majority supports, with an insurgent band of Republicans looking to codify the rule backed by a host of conservative advocacy groups.
The rule push took on added urgency in the Republican Conference given Boehner’s unwillingness last week to publicly say he would not break the rule to pass immigration. Over the weekend, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher added fuel to the fire by saying Boehner should lose his speakership if he didn’t abide by the Hastert rule on immigration.
By Tuesday morning’s conference meeting, Boehner was in damage control mode.
Asked whether the California Republican was right about a revolt that could cost him his speakership, Boehner paused.
“Maybe,” he quipped, to perhaps nervous laughter in the room.
“I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans,” Boehner declared.
His remark seemed just shy of a vow to stick to the Hastert rule. He also did not answer a question on whether he would require a majority of the majority on a final conference report on an immigration bill. (A GOP aide later clarified that Boehner’s remarks did apply to a conference report as well.)
‘Alarming’ Development for Democrats
Sen. Robert Menendez, a member of the bipartisan Senate “gang of eight,” questioned Boehner’s commitment to an immigration overhaul after the comment.
“It is amazing and alarming that Speaker Boehner would allow a minority of House members — who will never, ever support immigration reform — to dictate the fate of bipartisan, comprehensive reform that an overwhelming majority of the American people want,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
(Get more Roll Call here)