House Republican leaders decided to delay a vote on their immigration bill in the face of near-certain defeat, kicking the can down the road one more day as the chamber failed to pass a more conservative alternative to the bill Thursday afternoon.
The conservative bill, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), mustered just 193 votes. All Democrats and dozens of Republicans rejected it because of its onerous limits on allowing undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the country.
The other, slightly less conservative version appears destined to a similar fate, with dozens of hardline conservatives and a handful of GOP moderates saying they’ll vote against the bill, thus promising its failure. But House GOP leaders moved to forestall that result, scuttling a planned Thursday afternoon vote as they cast about for another path forward.
That’s easier said than done. Republicans have failed to coalesce around immigration reform for more than a decade, and haven’t been able to agree on a solution even on broadly popular concepts like the one these bills were aimed at addressing — giving the undocumented immigrants brought here as children legal standing after President Trump’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The two different bills also sought to handle another Trump-manufactured crisis: The forced separation of migrant families at the border.
The GOP’s failure to address the issue stems partly from Trump’s erratic and bellicose behavior on immigration, as well as his unpredictable and inconsistent support of congressional Republicans’ attempts to clean up the mess he made. It’s also been stymied by conservative Freedom Caucus members’ refusal to compromise and support legislation, even on a so-called compromise bill that they were intimately involved in crafting that closely tracks with Trump’s own demands on immigration policy. House moderates have also failed to get the votes needed to join Democrats to force a clean vote on the DREAM Act.
Rather than admit defeat, House GOP leaders bought themselves one more day on Thursday. But they have no plans to change the current bill. Instead, they take the afternoon to have a meeting on the new slapdash bill they tossed together this week and discuss its contents with members. Yet it’s still unlikely that Friday’s results will be any prettier for House GOP leaders — or the swing-district members who desperately wanted to solve the issue ahead of what’s shaping up to be a rough midterm election for the GOP.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), the chairman of the conservative but less doctrinaire Republican Study Committee and one of the bill’s negotiators, said the delay was so Republicans could have a meeting “to walk through some of the two or three sticking points” on the bill. Walker said Republicans are also holding out hope that Trump will “continue to, or even add to his voice on support” of the bill despite the President’s lukewarm and inconsistent support of the compromise legislation.
But conservative hardliners made it clear that delay and more talk won’t get them to budge.
“It’s amnesty. It doesn’t protect the American worker. Chain migration is still in it,” Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) groused after the Goodlatte bill failed.