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Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) Taking Key Role to Get Immigration Reform Passed, Believes "There is Still Time This Year"

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rep uptonA Republican Congressman from Michigan, Rep. Fred Upton told members of a local rotary club that he plans to play a role in making sure that immigration reform is passed this fall.

According to MLive, Rep. Upton announced that he “will be part of a bipartisan effort to fix the problem, because it has to be fixed.  To me, doing nothing is not acceptable.”

On issues of timing and support, Upton implied that Speaker John Boehner would continue to insist on the Hastert Excuse, and seek the support of a majority of the Republican caucus before allowing immigration reform to come up for a vote.  Upton estimated that there are 120 to 140 Republican votes in favor of immigration reform, saying that “I do believe that we’ll have at least half our caucus for it.”  On the Democrats’ side, there are 187 House Democrats currently cosponsoring a House immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship.

Rep. Upton also said that he hoped immigration reform could be passed by the end of the year, before campaigning begins for the 2014 elections.  “I hope it really does not spill into next year. I believe there is still time this year,” he said.  His colleagues in the House GOP, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Jeff Denham, have indicated that a vote is still coming this year.

Immigration reform advocates have targeted Upton’s district office for demonstrations this year, with some of them holding a rally just last week calling on the Congressman to support immigration reform and citizenship.

Passing immigration reform in the House before 2014 would be a smart move for a GOP already in big post-shutdown trouble across the nation.  On a press call today, Rep. David Valadao (R-CA)–who, like Jeff Denham, is one of three Republicans to have signed onto the House immigration bill–noted that he is circulating a letter to his GOP colleagues, asking them to call on House leadership to hold a vote on immigration reform this year.  The support he might find, especially if it is anything close to the number that Rep. Upton is predicting, would signal to Speaker Boehner that there exists enough support in the caucus for a vote.

Of course, there already exists enough votes in the House as a whole to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  And as countless commentators and advocates have noted over the last few weeks, immigration is not an issue that is going away.  In a Bloomberg piece today, Frances Wilkinson of the Bloomberg View editorial board pointed out that Republicans will have to pass immigration reform–and soon:

The blunt logic encouraging Republican support for immigration reform is unchanged; only the timing is in doubt. In 2014 or 2015 or 2016 Republicans will have to pass legislation. Because a party that gets 20 percent of the nonwhite vote, as the Republican presidential ticket did in 2012, is a party set to collide violently with the 21st century. And while Republican nativists appear eager to go down with the ship, others have been eyeing the approaching iceberg with more trepidation. The question is when, exactly, they will start scrambling for the lifeboats.

The sooner they do it, the better it will be for them.  As pollsters have shown, Republicans are already much more vulnerable in 2014 than they think.