With GOP Set on Immigration Reform, House Republicans Ask What’s in It for Them

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Photo: Astrid Riecken/2010 Getty Images

The Senate's bipartisan immigration reform proposal was met with a good deal of optimism and praise, since the eight senators involved actually managed to play nice with fellow lawmakers. The House is working on its own plan, but they're having trouble getting into the same spirit. The problem doesn't appear to be the group of eight representatives, who are "90 percent there" according to Rep. John Carter of Texas, but the rest of the House. After losing the presidential election, within a matter of days many in the GOP settled on the idea that they could fix most of the party's troubles by embracing immigration reform, but House Republicans might need to be convinced that it's a good reason to put their jobs on the line.

Politico reports that many Republicans in Congress don't have large Latino constituencies (or they probably wouldn't be there), and thus they don't see what's in it for them to take a stance on immigration that could potentially anger voters in their district. “I don’t think the national party argument for the bill works in the House,” says a Democratic congressional aide. “If a Republican member doesn’t have a significant number of immigrants in their district, why do they care about the party’s presidential candidate in four years?”

Sources say the group — which includes Democrats Zoe Lofgren, Xavier Becerra, Luis Gutierrez, and John Yarmuth, and Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart, Sam Johnson, Raul Labrador, and John Carter — was split most on offering a path to citizenship, but otherwise they're generally in agreement. “I think what we’re talking about here is language and messaging,” said a Democratic Hill aide involved in the negotiations. “They may all be on the same page and trying to figure out how to sell it back home and to their caucuses.”

The representatives were hoping to unveil their plan on Friday, but that now seems unlikely. President Obama is putting pressure on Congress to move quickly, and in interviews with Spanish-language television networks on Wednesday he criticized legislators for dragging their feet in the past. “I think this is something we should be able to get done certainly this year and I’d like to see if we could get it done sooner, in the first half of the year if possible,” Obama said. The House group's new goal is to announce their proposal around February 12, the day of the State of the Union, which may not be what Obama had in mind.