(CNSNews.com) - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) said at his weekly press briefing yesterday that President Obama and the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate are united behind the cause of enacting immigration reform legislation that will provide illegal aliens with a pathway to citizenship and that he hopes to move forward with legislation as early as this fall.
Hoyer told CNSNews.com that he supports the position taken last week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Congress should push a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes not only a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens—amnesty, as it is described by critics—but also a new guest worker program for foreign workers.
“Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wants to move a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens and a guest worker program,” CNSNews.com asked Hoyer. “Do you want to move a similar bill--with a pathway to citizenship and guest worker program--through the House?”
“The President has made it clear that he believes that we need to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” said Hoyer. “I agree with him on that. I know the speaker agrees with him on that. Harry Reid agrees with him on that.
“As you know, Senator McCain agreed on that for a period of time,” said Hoyer. “On the campaign it was a little less clear--I’m so diplomatic--less clear what Senator McCain believed.
“But we hope in a bipartisan way, we have a lot of people in this country, who are going to be in this country,” said Hoyer. “President Bush--We agree with President Bush that we need comprehensive immigration reform. So the answer to your question is: Yes, I agree and hopefully we are going to move forward on it as early perhaps as this fall-- accomplishing that objective.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), meanwhile, balked at the idea of an immigration bill at his own weekly news conference. Boehner told CNSNews.com that he would oppose any such reform because Democrats have already packed the agenda with complex legislation.
“I suggested to a group last week that being in Congress this year has been like standing in front of a machine gun,” Boehner said.
“Whether it’s the stimulus bill, the omnibus appropriation bill, whether it was the trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye could see in the budget, (or) whether it’s the proposal taking over our health-care system, a national energy tax--and now somebody’s going to suggest that we’re going to try to do immigration reform in the midst of all this? How much is enough?”
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Reid said he was committed to a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would include both “bringing 11 million people out of the shadows”--a way to legal status for illegal aliens--and a new guest worker program.
“I’m going to do comprehensive immigration reform,” said Reid. “I’m not going to do it piecemeal. That's an excuse for everybody to do too little.
“We're going to do it all at once,” he said, “and we're going to have comprehensive immigration reform that will include taking care of our borders, a decent guest-worker program, bringing the 11 million people out of the shadows, doing something that is so important with the employer sanctions bill that really is a catch-22 for everyone.”
“We're going to do it all in one piece of legislation, not give people an excuse that they voted for one thing and think that they're through with it,” said Reid.
Reid’s comments came as President Obama announced he would host a meeting at the White House to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with selected House members and Senators. The meeting is now scheduled for Thursday.
“The meeting is to continue the conversation with the hopes of beginning the debate in earnest later this year,” White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said last Friday.
[This is an updated version of this story that includes additional quotes from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer that were not included in the original posting.]