BREAKING: House Immigration Bill Goes Down In Flames

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivers remarks during his weekly press conference on June 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images North America

A series of embarrassing delays has ended in a humiliating defeat for Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) so-called compromise immigration bill, which the House rejected 301 to 121 Wednesday afternoon. More than 100 Republicans joined Democrats in voting down the legislation, despite a last-minute, all-caps plea on Twitter from President Trump to approve it.

The bill would have offered a path to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, allocated $25 billion dollars for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, made it more difficult for immigrants to seek asylum, and eliminated several avenues of legal immigration, among other provisions.

Trump’s mixed messages on the bill — first half-heartedly endorsing it, then telling Republicans there was “no purpose” in passing it, then reversing course again hours before the vote — exacerbated Republicans’ already shaky efforts to find a path forward on immigration. Trump also alienated several members of the influential Freedom Caucus by attacking their compatriot Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) after Sanford lost to a primary challenger.

One GOP deputy whip, who asked not to be named, blamed the bill’s failure on Trump in a brief interview with TPM.

“The President’s tweet was 24 hours too late,” the Republican congressman said of Trump’s last-minute endorsement. “If he’d sent this tweet out Friday, we’d be cruising to a victory.”

The senior lawmaker added that Trump’s message last week that there was no point in the House voting on an immigration bill that the Senate would likely reject “just ripped the rug out from under us.”

The House failed to pass an even more conservative immigration bill last week, when both hardline conservatives and moderate Republicans alike voted down legislation crafted by Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) that hewed more closely to Trump’s views.

In the wake of that bill’s demise, relations within the GOP deteriorated further, with Freedom Caucus members blaming House leadership for not whipping votes aggressively enough to get the measure over the finish line. Facing a revolt, leaders first pushed back Wednesday’s vote several times, but the extra few days did not help them win over skeptical members.

It’s not entirely clear what House Republicans will attempt on immigration, if anything at all. The GOP deputy whip told TPM Wednesday that Republican leadership in the House was open to a narrow bill that addresses the migrant family separation crisis created by the Trump administration.

Before abandoning the effort to attempt to strike a deal with GOP leaders, moderate Republicans in the House came close in early June to obtaining enough signatures on a discharge petition to force the House to vote on a measure that would give legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) told TPM that she hopes the failure of the immigration bill pushed by House Republican leadership will give new life to that plan.

“They’ve exhausted the negotiation process, and it’s led nowhere,” she said.

Republican leadership pushed to stop the discharge petition, fearful of allowing members to vote on immigration legislation so close to the midterm election. Instead, GOP leaders pushed for votes on immigration bills that conservative members had a hand in crafting.

Even if moderate Republicans do renew their push on the discharge petition, such an effort would likely not take place until the fall.

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