The House bill approved Wednesday, on a vote of 22-9, would require businesses to check on the legal status of employees within two years, as compared with four in the Senate measure.
One of the bills approved earlier makes it a new crime to remain in the country without legal status. It also allows state and local governments to enforce federal immigration laws, an attempt to apprehend more immigrants living in the United States illegally. It encourages those living in the United States unlawfully to depart voluntarily.
The second bill that cleared last week deals with farm workers who come to the United States temporarily with government permission. Unlike the Senate legislation, it offers no pathway to citizenship.
With attention beginning to shift to the House, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had assured the rank and file they will vote on bills being written on their side of the Capitol. "We are not going to take up the Senate bill," Fleming said, quoting the speaker.
Internal divisions among Republicans, combined with overwhelming opposition among Democrats, recently sent a farm bill down to defeat in the House, and it is unclear if the GOP will be able to command a majority for its own approach to immigration legislation.
At the same time, rules generally guarantee Democrats a chance to have the full House vote on its own alternatives, and it is unclear whether they might seek the vote on the Senate bill that Republicans hope to avoid.
For now, supporters of the Senate bill contented themselves with urging the House to change their minds.
"A permanent, common-sense solution to our dysfunctional system is really in sight," said Reid. "It is my hope that our colleagues in the House will follow the Senate's lead and work to pass bipartisan reform and do it now."
Outnumbered critics said the measure fell far short of the claims made by its backers.
"It continues to promote false promises that the border would be truly secure," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
A short while later, Rubio, without mentioning anyone by name, stood at his desk to slam opponents of the Senate bill for what he said are false accusations.
He said it is not true, for example, that the administration can ignore the requirements for border protection or that future Congress' can cancel funding or that it creates a taxpayer subsidy for people to buy a car or a scooter.
Nor are critics correct to claim a new 1,100-page bill was recently introduced that no one has read, he said.
"This is the exact same bill that's been publicly available for 10 weeks," he said, with the exception of about 120 pages that require tougher border security.
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