Political News

Moderate GOP voices on immigration are at risk of a November wipeout in the House

Posted June 18, 2018 4:52 p.m. EDT

— House Republicans are at risk of losing several of their members in the midterm elections who are more moderate on the issue of immigration.

Immigration has re-emerged as part of the national conversation in recent weeks as lawmakers in Congress attempted to address the fate of those immigrants affected by the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. More recently, there's been a national outcry over the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy at the border, which has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents.

November's elections offer a golden opportunity for Democrats to take back the House and try to force legislation on immigration. Yet electoral success for Democrats would almost certainly mean losing some of their most likely partners in the Republican caucus.

Take the 23 House Republicans who signed onto a discharge position to force a vote on a bill that would have created a DACA fix. Of this group, 14 are facing competitive re-election battles in November (i.e. not rated as solid GOP) and five are retiring or have already resigned from Congress.

Three of the most prominent members who signed the petition -- Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Will Hurd and Jeff Denham -- are in particularly tough re-election battles. CNN rates those three races as tossups.

Overall, of the 28 House Republicans whose districts are rated as toss-up, leaning or likely to go Democratic and could have signed the discharge petition (i.e. hadn't left the House), half of them did. That's incredibly high number given that there were only 23 in the entire House who signed it. Among the 159 seats rated as solid Republican at this point, only four House Republicans signed the petition.

Of course, there is more to immigration reform than just DACA. We can broaden out the playing field to look at immigration positions overall. NumbersUSA, a hardline immigration group that advocates "for lower immigration levels," has produced scorecards for members of the House, with an A+ being the most hawkish on immigration (such as the president's immigration policy) and an F- being the most likely to support immigration reforms like DACA.

In the seats rated as toss-up or worse for the Republicans (i.e. seats Republicans are the most endangered in), the average Republican representative scores about a C+. That means the Republicans who are facing the toughest re-election races this fall are generally more moderate on immigration policy. (For comparison's sake, in seats that are rated as at least leaning towards the Republican, the average House Republican scores about a B+/B.)

All of this is to say that a big Democratic victory in November could lead to a Republican caucus in the House that is even more hardline on immigration than it is now. And while a Democratic-controlled House will lead to a more forceful pushback on Trump's immigration policies (the average House Democrat scores an F on NumbersUSA's scorecard), without moderate Republicans present, it might be more difficult to reach any agreement with the President and sign anything into law.