Republicans Leave Key Meeting Without DACA Deal As Discharge Petition Looms

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Group

House Republicans exited a Thursday meeting making happy noises about immigration but no closer to a deal to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as pressure for a discharge petition continued.

Moderate Republicans, many of them from tough swing districts, have been in open revolt against GOP leadership. They’re currently just three votes away from getting the 218 members needed to force a House vote on a bill to allow people who entered the U.S. illegally as children to stay in the country — and after a conference-wide meeting that yielded little the big question is whether three more members decide to cross their leaders and sign on. That could happen any day, though there’s no signal yet from the moderates leading the charge on the discharge petition over whether the huddle could hit pause on the push for three more signatures.

“We’re at the beginning of the family meeting. Family meeting, ‘don’t anybody say anything other than family meeting,'” Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), a discharge petition signee, told reporters as he exited the meeting, before repeating the phrase with an eye roll to indicate he was parroting a talking point from leaders.

Other moderate Republicans backing the discharge petition were less critical of leadership — Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) said he was “very encouraged by the meeting” — but no less insistent that something get done.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), one of many retiring GOP members who’ve signed the bill, told TPM that she’d heard “there’s pressure on our guys to not sign on,” but said that they were “almost there” in reaching critical mass on the discharge petition. She called in Spanish to another reporter that she felt better after the meeting than in previous days.

“It’s just a mystery still whether we’ll be able to get the signatures or they’ll bring back some proposals to the floor. But some of us are really frustrated to not be able to have a vote… we want a permanent legislative fix,” she continued. “It’s just like the last two minutes of a football game — it just goes on forever.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has been scrambling to stop the discharge petition from getting 218 signatures, said during a press conference that the GOP conference agreed on some general principles and “the next step is starting to put pen to paper.”

“We now are presenting people with an opportunity to get something on the floor,” he continued. “Our members are talking to each other … having very productive conversations with each other.”

But while he and other members of GOP leadership claimed a successful meeting, none could point to any concrete progress. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) said “direct talks” were the meeting’s biggest achievement. That fact that could push the final few moderates over the line to back the discharge petition.

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