House Speaker John Boehner changed his hardline stance on immigration, saying comprehensive reform, which would pave the way for legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants, will be a priority in 2013.
After calling comprehensive immigration reform "long overdue" in an interview with ABC News' "World News," the speaker told reporters on Friday he was not talking about a "3,000-page bill." "What I'm talking about is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system."
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, added that he was "confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."
The speaker's statement comes after polls showed that more than 70 percent of Hispanic voters supported President Barack Obama in the election.
"This issue has been around far too long... ... a comprehensive approach is long overdue," the speaker told ABC News on Thursday. Asked whether he favored a pathway to citizenship, he responded by saying, "I'm not going to get into any of the details of how you would get there. It's just time to get the job done."
However, the road might be bumpy for the speaker because Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a strong critic of immigration reform plans such as the DREAM Act, is likely to take the reins at the Judiciary Committee, according to The Hill.
In 2010, Goodlatte said that "the DREAM Act could mean mass amnesty for 2.1 million illegal immigrants...same thing occurred after the 1986 amnesty bill, the Immigration and Control Act, was enacted. Everyone said that was going to end illegal immigration. It opened the doors to more. This is going to do exactly the same thing."
Some Republicans are also criticizing Boehner for his statement. Louisiana Rep. John Fleming said in a statement Friday that the speaker should "talk with House Republicans before making pledges on the national news." Fleming added that it could amount to "getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a 'comprehensive approach' to immigration taken care of 'once and for all.' There's been zero discussion of this issue within the conference."
Iowa Rep. Steve King tweeted, saying, "Obama voters chose dependency over liberty. Now establishment R's want citizenship for illegals. You can't beat Santa Claus with amnesty."
However, Arizona Sen. John McCain backed Boehner, saying on his Twitter account, "I agree with the calls for comprehensive immigration reform."
Boehner had earlier said that Congress would not consider comprehensive immigration reform under any circumstances. He voted against the DREAM Act in 2010.