While just eight days of legislative business remain before lawmakers are expected to leave Washington for the winter holidays, House Speaker John Boehner maintained that immigration reform still has a spot in his majority's agenda next year, but he does not intend to move on comprehensive legislation.
Asked whether immigration reform was dead in the House, Boehner said that lawmakers continue to work towards the day when immigration reform might come to the floor.
"Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol Thursday. "I believe that Congress needs to deal with this issue. Our committees are continuing to do their work. There are a lot of private conversations that are underway to try to figure out, how do we best move on a common-sense, step-by-step basis to address this very important issue…because it is a very important issue."
Boehner said he was "encouraged that the president said that he wouldn't stand in the way of a step-by-step immigration reform" since "that's the approach the House Republicans have taken" so far. "The American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be."
But Boehner may not have heard President Obama's full comment, which signaled an openness for stand alone immigration legislation, but only if the measures address the full spectrum of problems with the country's immigration system.
"If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don't care what it looks like as long as it's actually delivering on those core values that we talk about," Obama told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. "We're going to have to do it all. In my conversations with the Republicans, I actually think the divide is not that wide. So what we just have to do is find a pathway where Republicans in the House, in particular, feel comfortable enough about process that they can go ahead and meet us."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also encouraged Boehner to send a series of piecemeal bills that could be combined for consideration at a conference table with the Senate, which passed comprehensive immigration reform June 27.
"The speaker is the speaker and any way he wants to bring the bill to the floor - in pieces or in big chunks or whatever it is - we just want to see legislation come to the floor so that Congress can act upon that legislation," Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, a freshman Democrat from Texas, said all aspects of an overhaul "are interconnected" but challenged the speaker to act now.
"This whole year Republicans have talked about doing a piecemeal process instead of doing a comprehensive version of immigration reform," Castro, D-Texas, wrote in a statement. "If you believe that you can pass a series of piece meal bills that gets us to a comprehensive solution, let's do it. Begin the process now. Let's come together to fix our broken immigration system."