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House Republicans, smarting from shutdown, back off from immigration reform

Published: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 10:47 a.m. CST

WASHINGTON (MCT) —  Several House Republicans working to pass an immigration reform bill say they are feeling bruised from the government shutdown and are wary of more grinding negotiations with the White House.

Rep. Raul R. Labrador, R-Idaho, who had worked with lawmakers from both parties this year to write an immigration bill, said President Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, over funding the government and increasing the country's debt limit made him unwilling to negotiate on immigration.

"After the way the president acted over the last two or three weeks, where he would refuse to talk to the speaker of the House ... they're not going to get immigration reform. It's done," Labrador said, walking off the House floor Wednesday night after voting against the measure to open the government and increase the debt limit.

Major reform had appeared stalled in the House long before the budget confrontation. But Obama said Thursday that with the shutdown fight over, he wanted Congress to get a bill to his desk that would fix the immigration system.

"Let's get this done," he said.

The Senate passed a broad immigration overhaul bill in June with the votes of every Democrat in the chamber and 15 of its Republicans. But Boehner has refused to bring the bill to a vote on the House floor because it was unlikely to receive the support of a majority of Republican House members. House Republicans have long said they want to pass a series of bills that overhaul different parts of the immigration system.

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings this year on increasing the number of visas given to high-tech workers, strengthening requirements for employers to check the immigration status of new hires, and allowing immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to apply for legal status. But none have been brought to the floor for a vote.

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said the most recent standoff _ in which Senate Democrats stood their ground and refused to bring major concessions to the table _made him cautious.

"I'm a guy who is pretty reasonable on that issue, and I think we can find common ground. But they didn't try to find common ground here," Stivers said after Wednesday's House vote. "And it doesn't bode well for whatever the next chapter is, unfortunately."

However, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who has been working with a handful of fellow Republicans on a bill that would increase border security and clear a way for immigrants in the country illegally to apply for legal status, thinks there is still a chance, especially if it is in a raft of bills that fix different parts of the immigration system.

"There's a lot of folks here who have been working and feel cautiously optimistic," Diaz-Balart said. "I wouldn't be spending this much time, this much effort, if I didn't think we had a chance to get it done."

(c)2013 Tribune Co. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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