Washington (CNN) - He will cave.
Despite his public statements to the contrary, House Speaker John Boehner will meet with Senate leaders to negotiate comprehensive immigration reform in 2014 - at least, Harry Reid says he will.
In an interview with The Hill, the Senate Majority leader says he thinks the Speaker, emboldened against tea party groups, will take the issue up in conference with the Senate.
“I think that John Boehner will conference with the Senate. Why wouldn’t he? He’ll have a lot of pressure from his members now that the election is getting closer,” Reid said.
Reid, D-Nevada, argues that popular support for an immigration deal will push members of Boehner's caucus toward a deal. Boehner, who recently stood up to more conservative elements of his party in supporting the debt deal, will lead the way, according to Reid.
“Some of his members are in very marginal districts where they need to do something on immigration,” Reid said.
All signs from the Speaker's office, however, still say no. Like other Republicans, Boehner has said he favors a piece-by-piece approach.
"I'll make clear we have no intention ever of going to conference on the Senate bill," he said last month, adding, "I want us to deal with this issue, but I want to deal with it in a common-sense, step-by-step way."
The 1200-page Senate bill includes increased border security and patrolling, as well as a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
It is the latter element that has outraged conservatives. Many decried the move as "amnesty," with the backlash so strong that even Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who authored the Senate bill, moved to support the House's piecemeal approach.
"I think when you try to do anything big in Washington it ends up running into headwinds. Now that's the direction the Senate went. I wanted to influence that process so I got involved in it. But I continue to believe that a series of sequential individual bills is the best way, the ideal way, to reform our immigration system," said Rubio in an interview with CNN anchor Kate Bolduan.
But Reid believes the time is ripe for Boehner to stand up to the conservative elements of his party - and some of the Speaker's recent public statements have convinced Reid that Boehner is ready.
“I was very impressed with his saying, as far as I’m concerned, what was long overdue. The government shutdown, it was being driven by these people he criticized,” said Reid. Boehner accused grassroots conservative groups of "using our members and using the American people for their own goals" at a news conference on December 11.
“I think it’s a hopeful sign that that caucus is not going to be driven off a cliff as much as they were in the past,” Reid said.
Immigration reform has been a top priority of President Barack Obama's second-term agenda, and momentum appears to be growing as outside groups, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, put pressure on Washington and polling shows continued support.
It remains to be seen what, if any, legislation will make it to the House floor next year, especially as 2014 will start with what looks to be another battle.
–CNN's Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.