Washington (CNN) – If there were any doubts that comprehensive immigration reform efforts were dead on Capitol Hill this year, House Speaker John Boehner eliminated them on Wednesday.
Boehner repeated his long standing opposition to the Senate-passed immigration bill and his pledge the House would never vote on it, but he went a step further, drawing a bright line: “I’ll make clear we have no intention ever of going to conference on the Senate bill.”
Last week the third ranking House Republican, GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, told immigration reform advocates that there wasn’t enough time left this year for the House to take up immigration reform. The House is in session 15 days between now and the end of the year.
After Republicans lost the presidential election in 2012 and Hispanic voters voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, Boehner said it was time for Congress to pass major immigration reforms.
“I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all,” Boehner said in an interview with ABC News the week after the election.
Facing sharp divisions inside his conference on the issue, Boehner insists he still wants action but says any legislation has to be done in pieces.
“I want us to deal with this issue but I want to deal with it in a common sense step by step way,” he said Wednesday.
A series of targeted immigration bills have passed the House Judiciary Committee – mostly focused on border security and enforcement – but GOP leaders have not scheduled any floor votes on any of them.
A significant bloc of House conservatives is adamantly opposed to any measure that provides a path to citizenship or legal status for the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States. So far, none of the House GOP proposals addresses that issue, but opponents worry that any negotiation with the Senate would ratchet up pressure on House Republicans to deal with questions of citizenship.
Boehner’s statement Wednesday declaring no talks with the Senate on its bill was designed to put those concerns to rest.
The Speaker brushed aside a question of whether House GOP leaders were avoiding the divisive debate on immigration reform to focus on problems with the implementation of Obamacare.
“This is about trying to do this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb,” Boehner said, adding immigration reform is too complicated to rush.
“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.”