House Republicans met early Thursday morning for over two hours to hash out the conference’s disagreements over immigration, which not only threaten leadership’s control over their members but have larger implications for the November midterm elections.
Despite a litany of rumors circulating Capitol Hill and renewed hopes for a consensus driven agreement, many members left Thursday’s meeting wanting more substance. There are still no real resolutions to many of the key immigration fights — a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” chain migration, E-verify and border security — that led to a mutiny within the party in May. (RELATED: What Is Going On With Immigration In Congress?)
Leadership plans to use what they learned at the meeting to draft a bill in the coming days that would hopefully garner the necessary 218 votes to get it out of the lower chamber. Although, as of Thursday afternoon, it does not appear there is a proposal that would pass muster in the conference.
Moderate Republicans are not entirely promising to pull what they feel is their silver bullet — a discharge petition to force a vote on amnesty — and conservatives will not commit to a pathway to citizenship for some 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Here’s What TheDCNF Learned
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan kicked off the meeting with a list of what must be included in whatever final immigration proposal makes its way to the House floor in the coming weeks. That list, which multiple members refused to detail, reportedly includes President Donald Trump’s four pillars.
The president’s proposal includes a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, border security (including a wall), ending the visa lottery program and ending chain migration.
The proposal looks very similar to the president’s, with only a “few tweaks,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said while leaving the meeting Thursday.
The remainder of the meeting consisted of throwing out ideas and discussing potential hangups, of which there many.
“We talked about a lot of potential ingredients. We got a lot of good input and a good outline today, and a lot of pushback on the guest worker — a lot of guys are concerned about that,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker told reporters as he exited Thursday’s meeting. There were also “a few [members concerned] on E-verify,” he said.
E-verify appears to be a major hangup among some Republicans, with many mentioning that any final, real proposal must include that feature.
“I’m really concerned about the lack of E-verify. You really want to solve the problems you have to deal with E-verify. There were a number of members concerned about that and there were a number of members that were on the other side of the argument,” GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida told TheDCNF.
Walker noted the fist step is coming to a consensus and, from that point, members can talk about other features to include, like E-verify. The biggest roadblock likely lies with how to define a legal pathway to citizenship, he said. From there, it is about who gets that pathway available to them.
“That could be a second step of this (E-verify). We are trying to find a consensus as far as to what would move forward with 218 votes and onto the president’s desk,” Walker said. “I think there was a lot of hope in the room and a lot of guys left encouraged. The hardest part of this is the definition of what is a pathway (to citizenship) and does that include other children of other people that have come.”
Thursday’s meetings comes amid an eleventh-hour push from moderate Republicans who signed onto a discharge petition on May 9 with Democrats in an effort to force leadership’s hands in bringing a “Dreamer” protection bill to the floor for a vote. (RELATED: Big GOP Donors Heats Up Amnesty Fight In Congress)
The petition needs 218 signatures and, thus far, has 215 names, including Democratic House leadership.
Conservative and many Republican members, including leadership, characterize the discharge petition effort as a push for amnesty. Many of the moderate Republicans pushing the petition are in districts that rely on agricultural labor and have high immigrant populations. Some are in slightly red-leaning areas, which is likely why they aren’t following the majority of the Republican conference.
There were rumors Wednesday evening that, if Thursday’s meeting did not go well, moderates would get the last three signatures to set up a round of immigration votes on June 25.
Conservative members and leadership have spent the past month fighting off the petition, getting moderates to repeatedly delay. Thursday was the latest example of leadership’s success, but some moderates who have already signed the discharge petition claim the effort is not dead.
At the moment, leadership appears to have squelched the push for another day.
“Members were running a discharge petition because they were worried we were not to take action,” Ryan told reporters after Thursday’s meeting. “But I think members also realize a discharge petition will not make law,” adding that the president’s proposal “is the most optimistic, plausible chance of getting into law.”
The discharge petition, from the administration’s perspective, was an effort to “turn the House floor over to Nancy Pelosi,” Short said.
Whatever happens with immigration may not leave voters waiting in suspense for long.
“Obviously, a lot of great ideas. I don’t know if there is consensus. In fact, there is not consensus but there is a lot of great ideas. Certainly, I think leadership will go from here to get that down to a legislative framework for everybody. I think they will try to do it in days, not weeks,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told TheDCNF.
Still, Ryan and leadership’s ultimate goal appears to be to kill the discharge petition and then move forward with discussions.
The goal is to not have “a deadline” on immigration, Ryan said Thursday.
There is also one question surrounding the entire House debate: Does it matter if any bill will ultimately fail in the Senate?
“I think in Washington on these major issues actions, movement creates movement, so I think it is important for the House to act on this,” House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady told TheDCNF.
This post has been updated.
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