In the midst of negotiations in Congress over an immigration overhaul, House Republicans are planning a series of meetings with Hispanic-Americans in the nation's capital as part of a partywide effort to woo minority voters.
The House Republican Conference, chaired by Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is planning four meetup sessions between Hispanic-Americans and Republican lawmakers at the Capitol Building this summer.
“It’s important that we’re having this two-way conversation and hearing the ideas and concerns from a broad base of people from around the country," McMorris Rodgers told Yahoo News in an interview. “More than anything we want them to know that we want to have this relationship with them. ... It’s our effort to build relationships with people all around the country to talk to them about issues that impact their daily lives.”
The conference plans to host the first meeting on Wednesday with Hispanic faith leaders; two meetings on July 18, one with women and the other young people; and a final gathering on Aug. 1 to discuss jobs and the economy.
The GOP conference held a series of similar meetings with young voters in March.
The Republican Party has emphasized Hispanic outreach since last year's presidential election, when more than 70 percent of Hispanic voters supported Democratic President Barack Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney. A Republican National Commitee audit of the party's efforts during the 2012 election published earlier this year urged Republicans to implement a permanent outreach program to minority voters. The RNC has pledged $10 million to sustain that effort, and other groups within the party, like the House Republican Conference, are following through on their own strategies toward the same goal.
The renewed Republican push for a comprehensive immigration overhaul was also, in part, sparked by the party's poor recent performance with Hispanic voters, Republicans leading the effort have said repeatedly.
While the Senate appears poised to finish its work on the immigration bill by July, House lawmakers are still negotiating their version of the legislation. Many House Republican lawmakers say they are hesitant to support a bill that includes a pathway to legality for those living in the country illegally. They also are worried that the border enforcement measures are not strong enough.
McMorris Rodgers said House Republican leaders will convene a special conferencewide meeting at the beginning of July to "discuss this issue and get a better sense as to where the members are" on the legislation. It remains unclear whether the Republican-majority House will approve a bill that includes provisions that offer a pathway to legality, she said.
“That’s still to be determined. We are just starting that process in the House. ... The group of seven are very encouraged by what they’ve been able to put together, but they’re still in the process of even writing it down," McMorris Rodgers told Yahoo News. "It’s one thing to sit in a room and think that you’ve come to an agreement when you’re discussing it. It’s another thing to actually write it down on paper. I know that they’re hoping to get something written and proposed before the Senate passes their bill.”
She did predict, however, that the final House version would likely need to go through a reconciliation process with the Senate before the final product reaches the president's desk.
“You’re going to see the House approach some of these ideas differently," she said.