U.S. business leader remains confident Boehner will seek immigration reform

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:18pm EST

1 of 2. United States Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue delivers his annual State of American Business address in Washington January 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the biggest U.S. business group, a traditional ally of Republicans, said on Thursday that he remains confident that the top Republican in Congress will push to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said he is not worried about House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's refusal to negotiate with the Senate on its sweeping bipartisan bill.

Donohue said he supports Boehner's decision to instead take a step-by-step approach with smaller measures to fix the nation's broken immigration system.

"I believe it will get done," Donohue said at a news conference attended by business, religious and law enforcement leaders, all of whom echoed his determination and optimism.

A landmark bill to bolster border security, help business get needed workers and provide an earned pathway to U.S. citizenship for up to 11 million undocumented immigrants won Senate approval in June.

But thus far, the House has passed only a handful of limited bills, most dealing with enforcement and none providing a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

Donohue promised to help Boehner get the votes to pass a series of bills to provide comprehensive reform, including a pathway to citizenship.

He said such legislation would be good for business, labor and the country, and that he expects final congressional approval in the first half of next year.

"We're not going away," said Donohue, whose business group, along with organized labor, helped craft the Senate bill. "We're just getting warmed up."

Boehner drew fire on Wednesday when he said that the House will not negotiate with the Senate to resolve differences between the Senate bill and what the House ends up passing.

"We have made it clear that we are going to move on a common sense, step-by-step approach," the speaker said in repeating his opposition to the Senate legislation.

"We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill," he said.

Some read Boehner's comments to mean that he was walking away from comprehensive reform.

Donohue, whose Chamber of Commerce represents more than 3 million businesses, said he didn't see it that way.

"I'm not upset with Boehner," Donohue said, adding that he believes Congress will end up doing what needs to be done to overhaul the U.S. immigration system.

"We will get there," he said. "It doesn't matter to me what music they play for the dance."

OBJECTION TO PATHWAY

The Chamber of Commerce, and much of the business community, has long been allies of Republicans, largely because of the party's anti-tax, anti-regulatory positions.

Yet many Republicans have balked at the Senate bill because of the pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Critics say the pathway would provide "amnesty" to law breakers and encourage more illegal immigration.

Supporters disagree. They say it would bring millions of illegal immigrants out of the shadows and end exploitation of them.

Donohue said he remains confident Congress will enact a comprehensive immigration overhaul largely because polls show more than 70 percent of Americans back it.

Jay Timmons, head of the National Association of Manufacturers, joined Donohue at Thursday's news conference and said: "We're all optimistic up here."

The news conference was a follow-up to a "fly-in" last month that saw more than 600 conservative leaders from across the country come to Washington to urge lawmakers to move forward on immigration reform.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Comments (7)
Fat chance. They’ve already made it perfectly clear they have zero intentions of taking this up, now or ever.

From an article on Politico:

“Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 House Republican, told activists last week that there isn’t enough time to complete immigration reform this year.”

Preceded by:

“Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) joked that the House shouldn’t even remain in session in December. As the schedule stands now, the House anticipates being in session eight days next month, after working seven days in November.”

Nov 14, 2013 4:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
Flooding our nation with 30 million new citizens in ten years will be great for the bottom lines of rich CEO’s, but a disaster for the rest of us. No wonder why 70% of Americans reject the Senate approach. It is only the grass roots calls and e-mails to the House reps (and Bohner in particular)that is stopping the anything goes mass immigration amnesty being pushed by the Senate. Keep calling your reps (and Bohner, Cantor) to demand NO AMNESTY, NO CONFERENCE WITH THE SENATE!! They can be reached at the Capital Switchboard at 202 224-3121. Please America….keep the calls flooding EVERY day until this session is over. Don’t just get mad….keep calling…it is working but its all hands on deck.

Nov 14, 2013 5:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
The Senate bill doesn’t provide for any genuine enforcement. Any enforcement referenced in the bill is merely suggestions, and can be defunded or completely rejected by DHS (which will reject them). Even the CBO said it would only cut illegal immigration in half. In other words, the Senate bill is mass amnesty today, enforcement never. Get loud with your house rep today or we will lose this nation to a very vocal, self serving minority.

Nov 14, 2013 6:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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