WASHINGTON — The House and its conservative majority are coming under pressure to act after the Senate passed a landmark immigration bill opening the door to U.S. citizenship to millions while pouring billions of dollars into securing the border with Mexico.
President Barack Obama, traveling in Africa, called Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to urge them to have the House act on the issue and emphasize it's a priority for him, the White House said Friday.
But the bill's prospects are highly uncertain in the Republican-led House, where conservatives generally oppose citizenship for immigrants living in the country unlawfully. Many also prefer a step-by-step approach rather than a comprehensive bill like the legislation the Senate passed Thursday on a bipartisan vote of 68-32.
"Today, the Senate did its job. It's now up to the House to do the same," Obama said in a statement. "As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye. Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop common-sense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen."
Members of the Senate's so-called Gang of Eight, the senators who drafted the bill and hoped a resounding vote total would pressure the House, echoed the plea.
"To our friends in the House, we ask for your consideration and we stand ready to sit down and negotiate with you," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. "You may have different views on different aspects of this issue, but all of us share the same goal, and that is to take 11 million people out of the shadows, secure our borders and make sure that this is the nation of opportunity and freedom."