Florida delegation proves real immigration fight looms in House
WASHINGTON — The Senate immigration bill will be fed through the grinder today when scores of amendments, from adding rights for gay couples to even more border security, are considered. It's a crucial start to a process Sen. Marco Rubio and the rest of the Gang of 8 hope will lead to broad support for immigration reform in the full Senate.
But a bigger challenge looms in the Republican-controlled House. Look no further than Florida's GOP delegation, Rubio admirers who are reluctant to embrace a comprehensive approach or flatly oppose some provisions.
"I'm definitely not for a path to citizenship. It's breaking the law and we're rewarding it," said Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, adding he could support other reforms.
Rep. Trey Radel of Fort Myers said he appreciates the Senate's bipartisan approach, but referring to the authors, he added, "I am concerned by the way the Gang of 8 is attempting to hand out citizenship like it's a gift they can pick and choose. Before we talk about a path to anything, I am looking for a commitment to a safe and secure border."
Rep. Dan Webster of Winter Garden said he's concerned about provisions that would legalize about 11 million people and allow them to gain citizenship through fines and by waiting up to 13 years. "I'm thinking that through. There are people in their country who are being leapfrogged if we do that."
Webster said he favors a piecemeal approach over the Senate's all-in-one bill, which ran 844 pages when introduced April 17. "We've already seen what Obamacare did. You write a bill, you've got all these rules, regulations and it's not even able to fulfill half the promises it made. Let's do every piece right."
The responses from one of the country's largest House delegations (17 of the 27 Florida representatives are Republican; the Democrats are supportive of reform) show the challenges that await if the Senate bill passes.
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