Big GOP Donor Heats Up Amnesty Fight

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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A prominent Chicago-based GOP donor is threatening to withhold campaign donations if Republican congressmen don’t sign onto the immigration discharge petition making its way through the House.

Twenty moderate and centrist Republicans have signed on with a large coalition of their Democratic colleagues to a petition that would force leadership’s hands in bringing a Dreamer protection bill to the floor for a vote. The petition is still 15 votes shy of the 218 needed, but a number of lawmakers expect it to get the votes in the coming days.

Former Exelon chairman John Rowe is threatening Republican congressmen if they won’t support the discharge petition.

“Every member of the Illinois delegation knows this is one of the most important issues facing them and it determines how much money I’m giving them,” Rowe told Politico. “This is the home state of Abraham Lincoln. We’re betraying our entire heritage if we don’t get this done.”

Rowe has some sway with Republicans, donating in excess of $500,000 to mostly GOP campaigns since 2015.

“There’s a whole bunch of Republicans like me who simply aren’t going to keep giving money if you don’t get an immigration bill done,” Rowe claimed to have told House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

The Chicago-based donor is already making good on his promise, helping Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, one of the prominent Republican backers of the discharge petition, raise $50,000 earlier in May.

“He’s my kind of Republican — moderate on social issues and very much pro-immigrant,” Rowe told Politico of Curbelo. “He wants a Republican Party that doesn’t look all old, white and male.”

Republican leadership has warned the conference that pushing the petition will give an upper hand to Democrats on immigration policy.

House Freedom Caucus members want leadership to bring Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Michael McCaul of Texas’s immigration bill to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. The caucus’s thinking is that a vote on the conservative immigration bill would kill the momentum of the discharge petition, which the conservatives see as a mechanism to get a Dreamer protections bill before the entire lower chamber.

Moderates want to push a bill, known as Hurd/Aguilar, that would provide some funding for border security, but would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. Goodlatte/McCaul, on the other hand, only grants DACA recipients a temporary protected three-year legal status with no pathway for citizenship. The conservative bill also includes other features, such as E-verify, that harder-line immigration hawks consider necessary. (RELATED: Why The HFC Killed The Farm Bill)

Leadership is reportedly trying to work with members of the House Freedom Caucus and moderates to bring a conservative immigration bill to the floor, one that would allow moderates to get on board, although there is no final determination on whether moderates are in support. (RELATED: House GOP Pushes Goodlatte-McCaul Immigration)

There are rumors that moderates will shoot down the conservative bill in a procedure rule vote if leadership tries to push it through without including votes on moderate immigration proposals.

Leadership met with HFC leadership and some moderates Tuesday afternoon to try and hammer out an agreement, but there is no standing one at this time.

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