The House of Representatives wrapped up its work for the year without tackling the thorny issue of immigration reform, prompting both Republican and Democrat members of Congress to suggest it will be a priority in 2014.

And that’s exactly why House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has vocally criticized conservative organizations in recent days, according to Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America. Appearing on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” with Chuck Todd, Needham said it is part of the strategy following this week’s budget debate.

“The Speaker is trying to turn this into a boring fight between outside groups and himself so that we are not having a policy debate about whether or not this is a good deal,” Needham said. “They want to clear the way for immigration reform.”

Based on recent comments from both Republican and Democrat leaders, immigration reform will take a prominent role next year. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), whose committee is weighing a number of bills, called it a “top priority” in 2014.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said Boehner’s attack on conservatives and passage of the Ryan-Murray budget deal could be a turning point on immigration reform.

“This is an example where he actually took them on and said these outside groups are just promoting themselves by taking these positions,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Jon Ward of The Huffington Post. “So again, if his members vote for this and don’t get too much flak, maybe it will embolden the Speaker to finally do the right thing [on immigration].”

Earlier this year, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that Heritage’s James Carafano said puts amnesty first, would increase long-term spending on government benefits and entitlements, and fails to significantly reduce illegal immigration.

The House has charted a different course, opting instead to tackle the problem with individual bills. That could eventually lead to a combination of the legislation, as Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has predicted. “Get us to conference,” Menendez said earlier this year. “In a conference, we can negotiate the notion of bringing all those bills together.”

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