Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) . (Photo/Getty Images)

After historic Senate immigration vote, the pressure is on for House Republicans

The proverbial ink was not dry on the historic Senate immigration bill when the focus was already moving to the next group – the Republican-led House, who now has to vote on a bill. Judging from the comments of House Speaker John Boehner, it was obvious that like many have been saying all along, the path in the House will be a lot tougher than in the Senate.

“And for any legislation to pass the House [it] is going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members,” said Boehner yesterday.

Boehner was essentially saying he would invoke the so-called Hastert Rule, which means that for any bill to pass, it has to have the “majority of the majority” – in this case Republicans – of the House. New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Gang of Eight who helped draft the sweeping legislation, said to NBC Latino that to have comprehensive immigration reform hinge on a minority in the House “who will never support a pathway to citizenship – is the antithesis of democracy,” warning against House “intimidation” tactics.

RELATED: Immigration bill passes Senate 

Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who is part of a group in the House that has been working for years on an immigration bill, said after the Senate bill’s passage that the “clock is ticking,” and said that the House Judiciary Committee’s passage of certain piecemeal immigration measures would not cut it. “They are proposals, quite honestly, that we’ve seen before. They’re not solutions that the American people are demanding.”

The issue for many Republican House members, as Latino Decisions political scientist Sylvia Manzano explains, “is that they are strictly focusing on the midterms, and on their specific constituencies, where supporting immigration is not an issue.”  Legislators in districts with few Hispanic voters and with vocal opposition to the legislation will not have an incentive to vote for sweeping legislation.

RELATED: Menendez speaks of Senate bill’s path to success, warns against House “intimidation” 

Manzano does say, however, that the intensifying support of outside groups could start exerting an influence.  “Many of these legislators need the support of the Chamber of Commerce, for example, or agricultural and business groups which are demanding immigration reform.”

The question is if this will move the needle. University of Washington political scientist and Latino Decisions co-principal Matt Barreto noted after the 68-32 immigration vote yesterday that 14 Republicans had voted “yes,” including Republican conservatives such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has repeatedly warned the GOP it needs to improve its standing among Latino voters.

“Graham and Rubio are absolutely correct,” says Barreto, noting that a recent poll found 45 percent of Latino voters would be more likely to support a GOP candidate who took a leadership role on reform, and 69 percent of Hispanic voters had a more favorable impression of Rubio after hearing one of his quotes supporting reform.

Whether any of this will sway House members opposed to sweeping immigration reform  – and how much sway they will hold – is the big question.

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