The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Wednesday that the chamber's Republicans will not go to a conference committee to work out a broad immigration bill with the Senate.
In doing so, Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, flatly rejected the demand of President Obama and congressional Democrats who have said they will accept only a broad bill that legalizes illegal immigrants.
Speaking to radio host Laura Ingraham, Mr. McCaul said his party leaders need to publicly announce that they won't enter into official negotiations with the Senate, which passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, or CIR in Capitol Hill-speak, this year. That Senate bill would legalize most illegal immigrants as well as double the number of Border Patrol agents on the southwestern border and revamp guest-worker programs.
But Mr. McCaul said the House should refuse to take up that broad bill and should insist on border security first.
"I am not going to go down the road of conferencing with the Senate CIR bill, and I told [House Speaker John A.] Boehner that he needs to make that very clear," Mr. McCaul said. "We are not going to conference with the Senate on this. We're not going to conference with the Senate — period."
Mr. McCaul has written his own stand-alone border security bill that would push the Homeland Security Department to come up with a strategy to either arrest or turn back 90 percent of would-be illegal border crossers. That bill cleared his committee on a bipartisan voice vote.
House Republican leaders are trying to figure out how to proceed. They have a series of piecemeal immigration bills ready and are trying to write more.
But also Wednesday, a third House Republican joined most House Democrats in sponsoring a broad immigration bill similar to the Senate's proposal, though with less border security, suggesting growing momentum for the Democrats' approach.
Rep. David G. Valadao of California became the third Republican, following Rep. Jeff Denham of California over the weekend and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida on Tuesday.
That means there are at least 190 sponsors, including all but about a dozen House Democrats, for the bill, labeled House Resolution 15 or H.R. 15.
"By supporting H.R. 15 I am strengthening my message: Addressing immigration reform in the House cannot wait," Mr. Valadao said in a statement. "I am serious about making real progress and will remain committed to doing whatever it takes to repair our broken immigration system."
The Democratic bill adopts most of the provisions that were included in the Senate's immigration bill, which passed that chamber on a bipartisan 68-32 vote this year.
The one major change was that House Democrats cut out the stiff new border security provisions such as 20,000 more Border Patrol agents and 350 miles of additional border fencing that senators added to win over Republican support. Instead, House Democrats have called for giving the Homeland Security Department the flexibility to decide what border security measures are needed.
The House Democrats' bill is more than 1,100 pages and includes a rewrite of guest-worker programs, new restrictions on interior enforcement, and a requirement that all businesses check prospective hires through an electronic verification system.
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