GOP Leaders Announce Votes On Competing DREAMer Bills Next Week

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22:  U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) leaves with House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) after a post House Republican Conference meeting news briefing May 22, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House GOPs gathered for a conference meeting to discuss Republican agenda.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

The House will vote next week on a pair of competing bills to address the plight of undocumented immigrants brought here as children, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office announced late Tuesday night, quelling a rebellion from moderate members who had almost but not quite forced his hand on the issue.

The GOP will bring a pair of bills to the floor. The first, authored by conservative House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is likely to fail due to bipartisan opposition. The second will ostensibly be agreed to in ongoing negotiations between moderate and conservative members, who had yet to reach a deal as of a Tuesday night deadline set by moderates for a bill.

It’s unclear if they’ll be able to strike a compromise in time, though moderates’ failure to force the issue by securing 218 votes on a discharge petition means they may be forced to cave to conservatives’ numerous demands to get any bill done.

“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. The full Conference will discuss tomorrow morning and we’ll have more to share at that point,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement.

The announcement came just as moderates’ major leverage appeared to be vanishing. Dozens of Republicans had joined the entire Democratic caucus to sign a discharge petition that would have forced a number of bills to the floor including one that would have offered a full pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. They’d promised for weeks that they had enough support to get it to a majority, but appeared like they would stall out just two members short of the 218 needed on Tuesday night, the deadline for getting the discharge petition signed if they wanted to force a vote by the end of June.

Any later would have further endangered the already-uphill battle, which is still a long way from becoming law as the Senate and President Trump will both have to accept it — far from a sure thing. And their failure to produce 218 votes was a setback that undercut their efforts to guarantee a fix to protect DREAMers will pass the House this summer.

As it stands now, the moderate faction led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Will Hurd (R-TX) will continue to negotiate on the details of a bill with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, though it’s unclear if they can agree on a final deal.

As members left a Tuesday evening meeting in Ryan’s office, they said they were close to an agreement and had legislative language, but hadn’t finalized anything yet. The outstanding issues had to do with conservatives’ demands for curtailing the current U.S. asylum system — something moderates are open to — and a push to require all businesses with more than 50 employees to verify that all of their employees could legally work in the U.S.

Curbelo celebrated the news — while continuing to push the discharge petition.

“Today’s commitment by House Republican Leadership to bring immigration reform legislation to the floor next week is a major development,” he said in a statement. “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. 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.”

The moderates’ rebellion succeeded in reigniting the debate around the issue, reviving it when it appeared to be dead. But they fell short of the 218 signatures needed to take control of the fight. Now, even if they and conservatives can agree to a bill that can pass the House in the coming weeks, it remains unlikely it can become law before the fall elections — or before the courts rule on whether Trump was within his legal rights to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the move that triggered this crisis in the first place.

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