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House Leaders Pondering Next Step on Immigration

Despite indications that a comprehensive immigration bill will be unlikely to reach the House floor following the Senate’s defeat of a similar proposal late last month, Democratic leaders are expected to mull alternatives this week when the chamber reconvenes Tuesday following the July Fourth recess.

According to a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Democrats have yet to determine a course of action, including whether to proceed with a series of smaller bills targeted to topics such as border security rather than a single piece of legislation.

“We don’t want to make any decisions without talking fully about this issue,” the spokesman said Thursday. “It’s being discussed.”

In the meantime, Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders, who have strongly supported moving an immigration measure this year, have asked to meet with Democratic leaders this week on the issue.

“We believe there is still a possibility it can happen,” CHC Chairman Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said at a press conference June 28, following the Senate vote.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has led CHC efforts on the measure, added: “No one said it was going to be easy and today was a clear indication of that.”

CHC leadership said in late June that they would oppose moving the legislation as a series of smaller bills, asserting that doing so would focus on enforcement efforts without addressing aspects of immigration.

“Breaking up the bill is the worst thing we can do at this particular moment,” Gutierrez said.

Nevertheless, some key Democrats declared the comprehensive bill effectively dead following the Senate vote.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, said after the Senate vote: “They have voted against proceeding, so we can’t proceed.”

While the California lawmaker said her panel will “consider what, if anything, we should do,” she declined to state whether the House could pursue alternate legislation, assigning that decision to Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) echoed that sentiment, blaming President Bush for failing to unite Republicans on the issue, stating: “There’s no chance of passing legislation now.”

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