Reid: GOP border bill could be vehicle for immigration reform

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSay NO to PROMESA, say NO to Washington overreach Overnight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that if the House passes a $659 million border bill with policy changes, he could use it as a vehicle for comprehensive immigration reform.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerCameras go dark during House Democrats' sit-in Rubio flies with Obama on Air Force One to Orlando Juan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan MORE (R-Ohio) is trying to round up enough votes for a pared-down border bill that spends far below the president’s request for $3.7 billion and includes policy changes to speed the deportation of illegal minors from Central America.

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Reid said the policy changes would give him an opportunity to attach the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year with the support of 14 Republicans.

“If they pass that, maybe it’s an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform. If they’re finally sending us something on immigration, maybe we can do that,” Reid told reporters after a lunch meeting with his caucus.  

“We’ve been looking for something to do a conference on. Maybe we can do it with that,” Reid said.

Reid’s statement delivers a blow to BoehnerJohn BoehnerCameras go dark during House Democrats' sit-in Rubio flies with Obama on Air Force One to Orlando Juan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan MORE’s efforts to persuade conservatives in his conference to vote for the bill.

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzVa. GOP delegate files lawsuit over bound convention votes Our most toxic export: American politick 'Never Trump' group ad compares Trump to Reagan MORE (R-Texas) met with more than 20 House conservatives last week to warn them that passing legislation addressing the Texas border crisis could come back to haunt them. He said Reid would likely either bury the bill in the Senate or overhaul it and potentially use it as a vehicle to pass elements of the Senate’s comprehensive reform.

The House has not taken any floor action on immigration reform legislation this year. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken opponent of granting legal status to illegal immigrants, has warned any bill could be used as a vehicle for creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of them.

The pending House border bill includes changes to a 2008 trafficking victims protection law that would allow immigration authorities to speed the deportation of children seeking asylum from Central America.

It would deploy National Guard troops to the southern border and increase funding for immigration judges to shorten the timeline for processing unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries. 

The Republican co-authors of the 2013 Senate immigration bill rebutted Reid’s comments Tuesday evening and accused him of trying to blow up House legislation that would limit the legal rights of unaccompanied immigrant children.

“It is obvious that Majority Leader Reid’s suggestion that the Senate could include comprehensive immigration reform in its border crisis bill is a blatant attempt to scuttle House Republicans’ good-faith efforts to pass legislation addressing the issue this week,” Republican Sens. John McCainJohn McCainReport: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns No reason why women shouldn't be drafted MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns Hacked computer network mysteriously back online MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco RubioVa. GOP delegate files lawsuit over bound convention votes The Hill's 12:30 Report Rubio Senate challenger drops out MORE (Fla.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeMcConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns MORE (Ariz.) said in a joint statement.

The four Republican members of the Gang of Eight, which hammered out the framework of the comprehensive bill, pledged to oppose any effort by Reid to attach it to pending border legislation.

“Without our support – which he would not have – it would be impossible for Leader Reid to add comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM Act to any border crisis bill this week,” they wrote.

The DREAM Act would grant legal status to children who came to the country illegally at a young age and have remained as residents in good standing.