House Republican leaders will bring a pair of immigration bills to the floor next week, sinking a push from reform-minded centrists to force votes on bipartisan Dreamer bills opposed by GOP leadership.
The House will vote on a conservative immigration bill authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and a more moderate compromise measure that is still being put together after weeks of closed-door negotiations facilitated by Republican leaders.
“Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues,” AshLee Strong, spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a brief email.
“The full Conference will discuss tomorrow morning and we’ll have more to share at that point.”
While leadership’s announcement throws a wrench into moderates’ plans, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), sponsor of the discharge petition, said they will continue to pursue their discharge efforts.
“While the legislation to be revealed in the coming days is based on the productive negotiations hosted by House Leaders over the last several weeks, it is vital our colleagues remain committed to the discharge petition,” he said in a statement.
“While we believe all parties have negotiated in good faith, until and unless we confirm the proposed legislation fully addresses the interests and concerns that unite us we must and will keep up the pressure.”
They could could relaunch the discharge effort, having one more shot to force votes on the issue on July 23. Yet the discharge route would only get tougher in the weeks ahead, as former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) won’t be around to sign it. And at least one other endorser, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), said he’s been pushing for a vote on the Goodlatte bill all along.
The decision to bring the two bills to the floor is backed by GOP leaders and the chief of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). Yet it’s unclear if the centrist GOP immigration reformers — whose discharge petition was the driving force behind any shot at immigration votes this year — are all on board.
Indeed, Ryan’s decision to side with Meadows and bring the Goodlatte bill directly to the floor would effectively quash the centrists’ discharge petition — and with it, much of their leverage to dictate the debate over the fate of the so-called “Dreamers.” And it remains unclear if the compromise option — which is yet finalized — will win the moderates’ backing.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), one of the early champions of the discharge petition, took to the House floor late Tuesday night with a warning: an immigration bill that doesn’t have bipartisan support, he said, is sure to fail.
“The only way that this body gets things done, if we work across the aisle to get things done,” Hurd said.
GOP leaders have been scrambling to avoid a divisive immigration fight less than five months ahead of November’s high-stakes midterm elections. They were successful in preventing the discharge petition from hitting the needed 218 signatures by promising a pair of on-the-fence centrists — Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Daniel Newhouse (R-Wash.) — floor action on an agricultural package that includes guest worker program reforms before the August recess.
“Given this significant progress, I will not sign the discharge petition today,” Newhouse said in a statement, shortly after Ryan’s office announced plans for immigration votes next week. “I also commend the Speaker and the Majority Leader for committing to me personally to bring forward an immigration bill that addresses agriculture’s labor needs before the August district work period.”
Before the House adjourned Tuesday evening, the discharge petition was just two signatures short of the magic number needed to move forward with the discharge petition and force a free-wheeling immigration debate after Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) opted to sign on Tuesday evening.
“After conferring with Democratic leadership and receiving their commitment to help me fight the border wall, I signed the discharge petition to protect DREAMers and DACA recipients. As one of the longest and strongest supporters of DACA in Congress, I am proud to add my signature,” Cuellar said in a statement.
“I will continue to fight against the border wall and work in a bipartisan manner to find cost-effective, 21st-century measures to securing our borders.”