House GOP Moderates Ramp Up Push To Force DACA Vote As Leadership Scrambles

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Group

House Republican moderates say they have enough support to force a full House vote on legislation to protect undocumented immigrants brought here as children, as tensions between them and House GOP leaders continued to escalate on Thursday.

A coalition of GOP centrists led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Jeff Denham (R-CA) are sick and tired of waiting for leaders refusing to move on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. And they’re just four GOP signatories away from being able to force a full House vote on a solution, assuming all House Democrats join them in support.

Denham told reporters Thursday afternoon that the Democrats would be publicly coming onboard before the end of the day — and that more Republicans would be signing on “this week.”

“I have more than enough signatures for the discharge petition,” he said.

The push continued a day after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told members that forcing the votes could cost Republicans the House majority by infuriating the GOP base — and an emergency meeting with centrists convened by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to try to diffuse the push.

In spite of that, the number of GOP signatories to the discharge petition grew to 20 on Wednesday, with a number of Democrats joining them on Thursday.

Republican leaders are livid about the push against their authority after months of foot-dragging on moving on any DACA fix, aided by a lack of urgency from many members since the courts are set to rule on whether Trump’s decision to end the program was constitutional this fall.

But that’s not how many centrist GOP members see it — especially those from swing districts facing tough reelection battles this fall. A number of members from districts with large numbers of Hispanic constituents, like Denham and Curbelo, worry that a failure to move on a DACA fix could further imperil their seat.

And some other GOP members are simply fed up.

I’ve got the speaker’s office going ‘you’ve got to stop this shit, to try to bring a vote,'” an exasperated Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), one of the signatories, told TPM. “Seriously, Mr. Speaker? We’re giving you the ability to write your own bill. … What is your fear for being accountable for a yes-or-no vote on a piece of legislation that was last tuned up three and a half decades ago?”

That Denham is breaking with his close friend and ally McCarthy is particularly notable.

The discharge petition would force a vote on four bills, including a much more conservative plan backed by GOP leadership that would likely fail on the House floor, two versions that could pass the full House with a combination of Democratic and moderate GOP support, and an open one that GOP leaders could fill with their own bill. That wouldn’t happen until early June at the earliest.

Even some members of GOP leadership said Thursday that they thought the party better move quickly on a solution.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee who Democrats plan to target aggressively for defeat this fall in a Hispanic-heavy district, responded “every bit of it’s true” when asked if the issue could have repercussions for the party in November if Republicans don’t figure out a way to unify around a solution, saying that while he doesn’t support the discharge petition it “forces our party to say more forthrightly where we are.”

A national message about where our party is [on DACA] is still, I believe, wanting,” he said. “Leaders lead. And we’re going to have to find a good, succinct answer.”

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