By Alexander Bolton and Russell Berman – 01/26/14 12:00 PM EST
The immigration reform debate in the House could boil down to a handful of influential Tea Party conservatives. Proponents and opponents of creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants and other reforms have zeroed in on “peer leaders” in the House GOP. These conservatives include Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Justin Amash (Mich.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Steve Scalise (La.).
While there are vocal factions on either side of the debate, the battle for immigration reform will be fought over a bloc of lawmakers who have stayed relatively quiet on the issue. Many of them will take their lead from conservative colleagues they respect more than House GOP leaders or big business groups.
Both sides are battling for 117 Republican votes because Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will only move legislation that has the support of a majority of the 233-member GOP conference.