WASHINGTON - Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that the House will not hold formal, compromise talks on the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill, a fresh signal from the Republican leadership that the issue is dead for the year.
The slow, relatively quiet death came more than four months after the Senate, on a bipartisan vote, passed a far-reaching bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security.
That fanfare for that bill was quashed by strong opposition among House Republican rank and file who reject a comprehensive approach and question offering citizenship to people who broke U.S. immigration laws to be in this country. House incumbents also are wary of primary challenges from the right.
One of the clearest signs that any action was unlikely was word that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who had worked for months on the Senate bill, had abandoned the comprehensive approach. Rubio had taken political heat from conservatives after Senate passage of the immigration bill.
Boehner, R-Ohio, reiterated that the House is focused on a piecemeal approach to dealing with the issue. But he declined to say whether lawmakers will consider any legislation this year or whether the issue will slip to 2014, when the politics of congressional elections further diminish chances of action.
The No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, had told immigration advocates last week that the House won't vote this year but possibly early next year.
"The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House and frankly I'll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill," Boehner told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.
He said Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is working on "a set of principles to help guide us as we deal with this issue."
The Judiciary Committee has approved piecemeal bills, but they have languished since the summer despite intense pressure from a diverse coalition of religious groups, business led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and immigration advocates.
Although House Republican leaders say they want to resolve the issue, which has become a political drag for the GOP, many rank-and-file Republicans have shown little inclination to deal with immigration.