Just days after stating he might bring an immigration bill to the House floor without support from a majority of Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner said it will not happen. But a prominent critic of the Senate immigration bill says the devil is in the details.
Following a meeting with House Republicans, Boehner tried to quash the buzz that he might buck his own conference to find common ground on immigration.
"I don't see any way of bringing an immigration reform bill to the floor that doesn't have the majority support of Republicans," Boehner said.
However, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said that firm statement may only apply to a bill that starts in the House.
"He has been consistent on that as far as a bill coming to the floor of the House that the House generates. That is not the concern that Steve King, Michele Bachmann and others and I have had," Gohmert told WND. "Our concern has been that even if we pass a very good bill, like Trey Gowdy's bill, if the speaker sends that to a conference committee and the report comes back and that's the one we're concerned may not have a majority of Republicans."
A House-Senate conference committee is convened to reconcile different versions of legislation in the House and Senate. Once the conference agrees on a final version, the two chambers vote on that bill with no opportunity for amendments. That's the scenario that has Gohmert and others worried.
"If we get a bill back that has amnesty and 99 percent of the Democrats vote for it and the speaker can put the pressure on 30, 40, 50 of our guys, people that are committee chairs or in leadership positions, then they can still pass it even without a majority (of Republican support)," he explained.
"We have understood that the speaker didn't want to bring a bill to the floor of the House originally. Our concern is bringing a conference report to the floor that a majority of the Republicans do not support," he said.
According to press reports, Boehner was noncommittal Tuesday when specifically asked whether his vow to require a majority of GOP support would apply to a House-Senate conference report.
Even though Gohmert said there are several aspects of immigration policy that desperately need attention, the best move for the House is simply to avoid passing any legislation and avoid the creation of a conference. He is pushing for a party resolution to hold off on any bill until specific criteria are met.
"Until the president secures the border, which is his legal obligation, as confirmed by the border state governors, then we do not, should not, will not take up any bill that provides any kind of legal status," Gohmert said. "This president has had plenty of time, and he has not secured the border despite what they're saying. So once he gets amnesty for people that are here, what incentive does he have to ever secure the border?"
Members of the Senate's "Gang of Eight" say they are also opposed to amnesty and insist their bill is something very different because of the taxes, fees, English language proficiency, delayed citizenship and other conditions that illegals would need to address. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., frequently declares the current immigration to be "de facto amnesty" because illegal immigrants are permitted to stay indefinitely since we have no idea that they're here. Gohmert rejects that assertion.
"That's simply not true ... Because the president is not using the money and the forces he has to enforce the law, he's basically given them amnesty himself. This has never happened before in the history of the country where the president has refused to follow the law and so Congress has come along and changed the law because the president refused to enforce it. I'm not aware of any time in our history where Congress has caved in because the president won't follow the law," he said.
In addition to border security, Gohmert mentioned changes he would like to see in the visa program. Specifically, he is open to expanding visas, particularly for agricultural workers, with one key condition.
"There are a number of things that we can do with regard to the numbers of visas or the types of visas. I would love to see a temporary visa for farm workers that requires that sure, we'll give you a visa for temporary farm work, but you have to provide an umbrella health insurance policy so the rest of the country doesn't provide all the health care for people who come in to do the farm work. We know we need workers in some areas, but there ought to be health care that the rest of the country doesn't have to pay for," Gohmert said.
The congressman is also reacting to Monday's Supreme Court decision, which declared that states cannot require proof of citizenship from people registering to vote since federal law does not have the same requirement. The ruling was 7-2. Gohmert said Arizona deserves credit for trying to enforce the laws the federal government won't, but he said one of the most cherished rights in America is endangered because the court's decision.
"It is a scary proposition, as noted by some of the international observers of our last election, who could not believe how lax we were in allowing the potential for fraud in our elections. Third World countries take more care to make make sure that people who vote are not voting more than once," Gohmert said. "There is no one in the world that is as lax as we are over something so critically important as voting. And so the people that are disenfranchised are all the legal voters."