WASHINGTON - The Republican-led House will delay consideration of immigration bills until this fall, diminishing the chances that President Obama will sign his top domestic priority into law by year's end.
House Republicans' decision to act in a piecemeal fashion, instead of on one comprehensive immigration bill, points to a drawn-out process that may spill into the 2014 midterm election season and jeopardize final negotiations.
"It's a long and winding road till we actually get to a final product," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said in an interview.
Democrats say that if Congress doesn't agree on legislation by the end of the year, an immigration-law revision may fall by the wayside.
"It's unlikely that it's going to happen in an election year," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters in Washington Thursday.
The House is starting to assemble its strategy for a rewrite of immigration laws almost six months after the Democratic-led Senate began negotiations and two weeks after the Senate passed its broad plan on June 27.
The Senate bill, S. 744, combines a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. with a $46 billion border-security plan.
While 14 Senate Republicans joined Democrats in passing the bill, many House Republicans oppose the citizenship path.
"We are not going to do the Senate bill," House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters Thursday. "I have said this since May the 23rd."
After a private two-hour meeting on July 10, House Republicans reaffirmed their plan to handle immigration legislation through individual bills, acting first to strengthen border security before addressing other issues.
If Republicans don't act on immigration, they do so "at their own peril because they haven't learned the lesson of Nov. 6," Rep. Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, said in an interview.
Border security and a path to citizenship constitute "the obstacle" for House and Senate negotiators to figure out, said Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla. "There's going to be the fight, and whether or not you're actually going to have immigration reform will lie therein."
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday, 54 percent of voters favor eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S., while 12 percent want to allow them to stay without becoming citizens and 28 percent said they should be deported.
Because of gridlock, however, American voters say by a margin of 69 percent to 27 percent that Republicans and Democrats in Congress won't be able to work together to pass immigration reform, according to the survey conducted from June 28 to July 8 among 2,014 registered voters.