WASHINGTON -- Deeply divided, Republicans struggled without success Wednesday to find common ground over how to deal with the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
Republicans in the House of Representatives emerged from a 2.5-hour closed-door meeting united in seeking tougher border security but with no solution for dealing with immigrants who already are here illegally.
We didnt decide anything, said Rep. John Fleming, R-La. We aired out our feelings.
The party schism pits establishment figures such as former President George W. Bush and possible White House contender Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on one side and the partys potent conservative base on the other.
The split was evident as the House Republicans huddle to plan their approach now that the Senate has passed an immigration overhaul that includes a path to citizenship for those who are in the U.S. illegally.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all but ruled out the kind of compromise plan that passed the Senate last month, saying hed allow the House to vote only on a measure that a majority of Republicans supported. The speaker reassured people that, look, were not in a hurry here. We want to get something done we think its very important to have a bill that passes but were going to do it with a majority of the majority, said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
After the meeting, Republican leaders issued a statement that asserted Americans dont trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and theyre alarmed by the presidents ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem.
Just what the Republican alternative should be remains uncertain, and it was apparent Wednesday that to ease GOP tension, We need a couple more conferences like this, said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. Most lawmakers said that getting much done this month seemed unlikely, as they want to head home for the five-week August recess and talk to constituents.
Theres broad agreement among House Republicans on taking strong new steps to secure the nations southern border and legalizing the status of certain immigrants. The House Judiciary Committee already has approved a series of bills that deal with tougher enforcement as well as visas for high-tech workers and special provisions for agricultural workers.
But theres little support for a path to citizenship like the one the Senate approved June 27. That measure, which 14 Republican senators supported and 32 opposed, sets up an elaborate system that ties legalization to enhanced border security.
House Republicans almost unanimously contend that approach is too lenient on immigrants who already are here illegally, since it allows most of them to stay in the country. Some lawmakers suggest giving those immigrants legal status but not citizenship. A plan to give children who were brought into the country illegally by their parents a path to citizenship also is being floated.
Such tactics werent discussed much at the meeting Wednesday, as lawmakers were intent on expressing where they stood. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., read a portion of the lyrics from America the Beautiful that summed up his thoughts on revamping the immigration laws. Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law! Brooks read.