WASHINGTON -- Could U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, be convinced to support an immigration package similar to what passed the U.S. Senate last week?
One top Democrat seems to think so. A memo sent Friday by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel -- a New Yorker who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- identified Webster as one of 23 “persuadable Republicans” in the U.S. House who Israel thinks could be turned into supporters.
“To achieve our ultimate objective -- passage -- we’ve identified 23 Republican colleagues in districts where constituents will demand progress on immigration, and where those pressures could persuade our Republican colleagues to support true comprehensive immigration reform,” Israel wrote.
Also on Israel’s list: U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, Bill Young of Indian Shores and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami. The memo was sent to other Democratic House members.
In making the list, Israel suggests the 23 lawmakers could face pressure “from major groups in their districts” if they didn’t go support a reform bill. An accompanying chart noted that several of these legislators represent districts in which Hispanics make up more than 10 percent of the voting age population.
Webster is one of those -- about 14 percent of those old enough to vote in Florida’s 10th Congressional District identified as Hispanic in the 2010 Census. The plurality are Puerto Rican.
But putting electoral pressure on Webster could be a tough climb for Democrats in a Republican-leaning district that includes parts of Orange, Lake and Polk counties. Webster won re-election in 2012 by 3.4 percentage points, despite facing a top-tier Democratic challenger in former Orlando police chief Val Demings.
That said, Webster seemed the least combative among local Republicans when asked last week about the Senate immigration measure, which ties a 13-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants with employee-verification requirements and $46 billion for border security.
Here’s Webster’s full statement, released the day after the Thursday vote.
“Yesterday, the Senate passed a 1,000-plus page immigration bill after limited debate amongst its members, but after months of negotiation and hearings involving a select few,” the statement said.
“The Senate has now put forth its own plan -- something it has been unwilling or unable to do on important issues in the past. The House is in the process of forming its own plan on how to sincerely and best address this very real problem facing our nation,” he added.
Follow-up questions to clarify those remarks did not draw an immediate response.
A spokesman for the DCCC, which acts as a fundraiser and booster for House Democrats, declined comment on the memo.