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House tackling immigration in pieces

– House Republicans will tackle the immigration issue in bite-size pieces, shunning pressure to act quickly and rejecting the comprehensive approach embraced in the Senate and endorsed by President Obama, a key committee chairman said Thursday.

“It is not whether you do it fast or slow, it is that you get it right that’s most important,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said at a news conference to announce the way forward on immigration in the House.

He said that while he hopes to produce a bill this year, “I’m going to be very cautious about setting any kind of arbitrary limits on when this has to be done.”

The approach Goodlatte sketched out was not a surprise, but it was a sign of the obstacles ahead of congressional passage of the kind of far-reaching immigration legislation sought by Obama and introduced last week in the Senate by four Republican and four Democratic lawmakers.

Many in the conservative-led House don’t have the appetite for a single, big bill on immigration, especially not one that contains a path to citizenship, still viewed by some as amnesty. Instead, they prefer to coalesce around consensus issues like border security, temporary workers and workplace enforcement.

But if the Senate’s comprehensive approach faces obstacles in the House, the House’s piecemeal approach won’t fly in the Senate.

Two of the lead authors of the Senate bill, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., rejected the piece-by-piece approach at a meeting with reporters Thursday.

Schumer and McCain said that any time an immigration issue is advanced individually, lawmakers and interest groups start pushing for other issues to get dealt with at the same time.

“I think the idea of doing separate bills is just not going to work. It’s not worked in the past, and it’s not going to work in the future,” Schumer said.

The House has always loomed as the toughest barrier to passage of immigration legislation, partly because many rank-and-file House Republicans don’t feel a political imperative to act.

Supporters of immigration legislation believe the best way to pressure the House to act would be for the Senate to pass immigration legislation with a convincing majority including a large number of Republican supporters.

Schumer and McCain predicted just that outcome Thursday, saying they hoped to get 70 votes in the 100-member Senate with support from a majority of both Republicans and Democrats.

“I think it’s very doable,” McCain said.

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