Biden-Boehner Whispers: Immigration — ‘We May Get Something Done’

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Joe Biden, U.S. vice president, left, talks to House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, before the State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014.

Vice President Joe Biden told House Speaker John Boehner during the State of the Union address that the Republican-run House should pass an immigration bill and work out details in conference with the Senate.

Biden said so today in a CBS “This Morning” interview.

The  White House believes “by far and away the preferable route to go is citizenship” for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., Biden said — and the Senate’s passed legislation provides that path.

“We don’t want two-tier people in America: those who are legal but not citizens and citizens,” Biden said.

House Republican leaders instead are discussing some sort of legal status for the undocumented short of citizenship, and they will convene a party conference this week at which their legislative principles will be debated, as Bloomberg’s Michael Bender reports.

If the House can only approve a measure without a pathway to citizenship, leaders should and then go to conference with the Senate, Biden says he quietly told Boehner as the two sat behind President Barack Obama delivering his State of the Union, in which the president called on Congress to approve the immigration revisions this year.

For a party that lost 71 percent of the Hispanic vote to Obama in 2012, the question of immigration reform this year figures into Republican calculations about the midterm 2014 elections as well as 2016. Approval could help mend the GOP’s rift with Hispanic voters in 2016, strategists say, yet offend the party’s core constituency in 2014.

“This year it looks like we may get something done,” Biden said today.

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