WASHINGTON -- Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the lawmaker tasked with electing Republicans to the House, said Friday his chamber will act on immigration reform before the 2014 midterm elections.
Keeping in line with GOP leadership, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee said the House will pursue a piecemeal approach, but it will not go to conference on the Senate's comprehensive bill or take up similar legislation introduced by House Democrats.
"Between now and the election I think the House will take up immigration in a piece-by-piece approach," Walden told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
House Republicans have dragged their feet on immigration since the Senate passed its sweeping legislation in June with a strong majority. Democrats have repeatedly called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the Senate bill up for a vote, arguing it would pass if brought to the floor.
House Democrats have pushed their own comprehensive immigration bill, which has the backing of just three Republicans. But GOP leaders have shown no appetite for the Democratic bill either, insisting a piecemeal strategy is the only way to get something done.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the chamber would not have time to vote on an immigration measure this year, pointing out there were too few legislative days left on the 2013 calendar to address such a complex issue. Other Republicans have acknowledged it would become tougher to move on immigration reform as the midterm elections draw near, but said they are committed to getting something done.
Boehner has pushed back on the charge that his members were moving too slowly on the issue because they were focused on dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law instead.
"This is about trying to do this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb," Boehner said Wednesday. "There are hundreds of issues involved in dealing with immigration reform. And we've got to deal with these in a common-sense way, where our members understand what we're doing and their constituents understand."
But Walden signaled Obamacare would remain a central issue for the GOP, likening the health care law's botched rollout to a natural disaster.
"Now that it has become a category 5 political hurricane, it is not just causing havoc in certain regions of the country," Walden said. "It is ripping apart every region of the country."
He added that the issues plaguing the federal website set up for Americans to purchase health plans, HealthCare.gov, and the cancellation notices sent for insurance policies that didn't meet the coverage standards of Obamacare, would pose a real threat to Democrats who voted for the bill, especially those facing reelection in red states.
"You can’t get away from your votes, you can’t get away from their statements," Walden said. "I think they’re in real trouble."