The fate of immigration reform hinges on how House Speaker John Boehner handles the issue. And on Tuesday, he laid down a significant marker on how the House will move forward.
Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated it is highly unlikely that he will bring a bill to the floor that does not have the support of a majority of House Republicans, who are generally opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Speaker has come under heavy pressure from conservatives to not rely on Democrats to push an immigration bill through the House.
"I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have the majority support of Republicans," Boehner told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Until now, Boehner has been coy about whether he would allow a vote on an immigration bill without the support of a majority of Republicans. As early as last week, when asked by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos if he would permit that to happen, the Speaker said, "We're gonna let the House work its will."
There's evidence that such demure statements have irritated some in the GOP rank-and-file.
According to Roll Call, a group of House Republicans have pushed leaders to codify what's known as the "Hastert Rule" -- the guideline generally followed by Republican speakers to only let bills with a majority of GOP support to come to the floor.
Recently, Boehner has broken the Hastert Rule on measures such as the Violence Against Women Act and Hurricane Sandy relief. That led some Democrats to speculate that Boehner could break it again on immigration. But Republican members are clearly working to make sure that won't happen.
Other members have made more blatant threats against Boehner. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca.) told a conservative radio program on Tuesday that he "should be removed as Speaker" if he permits a vote on a bill that's not backed by most GOPers.
Boehner deadpanned "maybe" when asked if he would lose his job if he brings the Senate immigration bill, which includes a path to citizenship to the floor. He called the Senate bill "weak" when it comes to border security and interior enforcement.
House Republicans aren't Boehner's only concern. He's also being forced to balance the desires of national Republicans who see GOP cooperation on immigration as a first step to winning over Latino and Asian-American voters. On Wednesday, Boehner will meet with members of the all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus, according to Politico. That group has long pushed leaders to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
Meanwhile, the House is considering a dual track to immigration reform.
A bipartisan group of seven lawmakers is soon expected to release a comprehensive bill that contains legalization for undocumented immigrants. But the House Judiciary Committee is taking a "piecemeal" approach. This week, they are looking at a tough enforcement bill that's considered a non-starter by Democrats and immigrant-rights groups.