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Offbeat GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team

13:30  17 may  2018
13:30  17 may  2018 Source:   thehill.com

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Momentum is building for an insurgent effort by centrist Republicans to force immigration votes on the House floor despite GOP leadership’ s attempt to tamp down the rebellion. The unfolding legislative battle is a nightmare for Speaker Paul Ryan Paul Davis Ryan Trump says he will 'take a look' at

Momentum is building for an insurgent effort by centrist Republicans to force immigration votes on the House floor despite GOP leadership’ s The unfolding legislative battle is a nightmare for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his lieutenants, because it exposes a fervent intraparty split in the GOP and pits

Jeff Denham wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill Momentum is building for an insurgent effort by centrist Republicans to force immigration votes on the House floor despite GOP leadership's attempt to tamp down the rebellion.

The unfolding legislative battle is a nightmare for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his lieutenants, because it exposes a fervent intraparty split in the GOP and pits leadership against many of the politically vulnerable members that are key to saving the Republican majority this fall.

A pair of GOP lawmakers on Wednesday signed on to a discharge petition that would set up a series of votes on immigration bills on the House floor later this year. The move came just hours after party leaders pleaded with rank-and-file members to stand down.

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Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), a leader of the moderate Tuesday Group, and Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.), who is retiring from Congress, both signed their names to the petition, becoming the 19th and 20th Republicans to do so.

Now, just five more Republican signatures are needed to force the immigration votes if all 193 Democrats join the effort.

"We will have more Republicans signing on this week, and a lot more Democrats signing on. I am confident we all have the votes we need," said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who is leading the effort with Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas). All three lawmakers are facing challenging elections this fall.

Denham added, "I'm not saying when our timeline is. I'm saying we have enough commitments to make sure we're going to be successful."

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Share: Momentum is building for an insurgent effort by centrist Republicans to force immigration votes on the House floor despite GOP leadership’ s attempt to tamp down the rebellion.

The coming days will see a battle for those remaining five votes. Denham and retiring Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who are leading the discharge whip operation, will be targeting those who have spoken favorably of the "Dreamer" issue but have yet to sign.

But those same Republicans are being whipped by GOP leadership not to sign. Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reiterated during a closed-door meeting with Republicans on Wednesday that such a petition effectively cedes control of the floor to Democrats.

McCarthy's warning to GOP colleagues was even more dire: If a discharge petition goes forward, he said, it could cost Republicans the House majority in the November midterm elections.

"I disagree with his assessment, but there were a number of members of leadership that were expressing those concerns," said Denham, who represents an agriculture-heavy district in the Central Valley.

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Among the targeted lawmakers are retiring Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), along with moderate Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), David Young (R-Iowa) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Other possible signers, such as Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.), say they stand in solidarity with pro-immigration backers; they just don't like the legislative procedures that are being used.

"That is not a tactic I think we should employ," Joyce, a member of the Tuesday Group, told The Hill.

Vulnerable Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), a close leadership ally, said she's against discharge petitions in general but added that she expects Congress to move on immigration soon.

"I think we've got to get everybody in a room and keep working on this like we've been trying to," she said.

The backers of the discharge petition are desperate to vote on legislation to help recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before the midterms. Trump is ending the Obama-era program that allows immigrants came to the United States illegally as children to live, work and attend school without fear of deportation.

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But the courts have blocked Trump from rescinding DACA, taking away the original March 5 deadline - and the sense of urgency - for Congress to come up with a permanent solution.

GOP leaders assured members during Wednesday's conference meeting that they are still working to bring an immigration bill to the floor. Under new pressure, Ryan and McCarthy met with Trump at the White House on Tuesday to try to come up with legislation that would have the backing of Republicans, Democrats and the president.

"We don't want to advance something that won't become law and just get vetoed even if it made it to the president's desk," Ryan told reporters Wednesday. "We want to advance something that has a chance of going into law that the president supports."

After the petition hit its 20th signature, the top four members of leadership - along with Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) - huddled with both the discharge backers and opponents in separate meetings on Wednesday night.

Curbelo, Upton and Denham said leaders kicked around some ideas for an immigration bill. Curbelo emphasized that they aren't on the edge of a deal yet, but described the meeting as "productive" and "moving in the right direction."

"Clearly we have had a positive impact on leadership and on this institution, because now this issue is being taken seriously," Curbelo told reporters outside of Ryan's office. "We have our plan, we're sticking to it, but we're willing to see what theirs looks like."

Some GOP House members warn Ryan over immigration effort

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GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan ’ s team . DACA vote: Congress could be just five GOP signatures away. Thursday is a critical day for both the future of hundreds of thousands young undocumented immigrants and House Republican leadership, as an insurrection led by Republican

Jeff Denham Jeffrey (Jeff) John Denham GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan ’ s team GOP leaders huddle with discharge petition backers, opponents Two Democrats on the fence over immigration discharge petition MORE (R-Calif.

But if leadership does not bring immigration legislation to the floor in the coming weeks, more Republicans have warned they may sign the petition.

"I do reserve the right to, if leadership doesn't keep their word and bring some bills to the floor pretty quickly," said Barton, who is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.

If the effort does secure 218 signatures, there is little Ryan and his top lieutenants can do to stop the effort. But there are a few options that discharge opponents are pressing them to use.

A House rule says discharge petitions can only be considered on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. So one idea is to have Ryan cancel those days that the House is in session - a move that would enrage discharge backers.

The other controversial idea, pushed by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, is to have Ryan bring up a standalone vote on a more conservative immigration bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas). Lawmakers say that would effectively kill the discharge petition because it calls for votes on various immigration bills - including Goodlatte-McCaul.

Supporters of the petition could just file a new petition, but it would force them to restart the clock. They also would lose at least one signature, because former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) has left Congress since signing the petition.

"We are nervous that we think this immigration thing is coming quickly," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Freedom Caucus leader. "So we're trying to figure out ways we can do right on immigration."

Some Freedom Caucus members said they would be willing to back a pending GOP farm bill if Ryan agrees to put the standalone bill from Goodlatte and McCaul on the floor to derail the discharge petition.

While leadership wants to pass the farm bill, a vote on the Goodlatte-McCaul legislation - which does not have the votes to pass now - could be politically embarrassing and force members to take a position on a bill that has little chance to become law this year.

It's unclear whether leadership is seriously considering the idea; Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and several other members met with leaders on Wednesday night.

And Denham pointed out that the idea would only work if enough GOP lawmakers agreed to support the rule allowing the Goodlatte-McCaul bill to come to the floor. Democrats routinely vote against such procedural motions.

"If they're going to bring up a bill, that bill also has to come up on a rule first," Denham said, "and I don't think the rule would have enough votes."

Republican leaders hold off coup on immigration -- for now .
Republican leaders have held off a coup from moderate lawmakers on immigration -- for now. As Congress departed Washington for a week-long recess Thursday, the threat of an all-out GOP civil war on immigration, which seemed imminent just days ago, was suspended once again. After a group of moderate Republicans vowed earlier this month to force a vote on a series of immigration bills against leadership's wishes, members left DC with more signatures, but without the last handful they would need to bypass committee and bring the bills directly to the floor.

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