Political News

Ryan Promises House Immigration Vote in Election Season

Posted June 7, 2018 12:53 p.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2018 12:55 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul Ryan promised Thursday that House Republicans would draft legislation on immigration for a floor vote in the coming weeks, setting up a showdown on one of the thorniest political issues just as the midterm campaign comes into focus.

Conservative Republicans loathe to loosen immigration rules remained at odds with moderates hoping to protect young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, as Ryan, R-Wis., and his fellow leaders in the House labored to reach an accord. A rebellion from moderate members is on the cusp of amassing enough support to force a series of immigration votes over the speaker’s objections, including two that would focus on those young immigrants.

After a lengthy meeting with his conference to discuss immigration, Ryan stressed that pursuing a compromise bill would be a better course than forcing the issue with Democratic support.

“The next step is to start putting pen to paper so we can get legislation to the floor,” Ryan told reporters after the meeting. He argued that if rank-and-file lawmakers were to go ahead with forcing immigration votes, the resulting measure would not become law.

“Our members realize it’s better to have a process that has a chance of going into law than not,” Ryan said.

But it remained unclear if the negotiations on a compromise would satisfy Republican lawmakers who are eager to see the House address the fate of the young immigrants. They have been shielded from deportation by an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that President Donald Trump moved last year to rescind.

The showdown would come at a critical time for House Republicans as they struggle to maintain control before a difficult midterm election. A vote on legislation deemed “amnesty” by the party’s right flank could demoralize conservative voters and depress turnout in November. But the failure of moderates to win support for the young immigrants could harm their re-election chances in the districts most targeted by the Democrats.

Nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers have signed what is known as a discharge petition, which would force a series of immigration votes in the House, and they need only three more signatures to succeed in forcing leadership’s hand.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, emerged from the meeting to tell reporters that the discharge petition would be put on hold as Republicans tried to negotiate a compromise bill.

“I believe that that was pretty loud and clear that will not go forward. The discharge petition actually did put pressure to get us to where we are today,” McCaul said. “But I don’t think there’s any will in the Congress to move forward with the discharge petition.”

But a senior House Republican leadership aide conceded that in all likelihood the petition could reach the required number of signatures as soon as next week. Another Republican aide said moderate members would continue negotiating with party leaders and the conservative House Freedom Caucus, while keeping the discharge petition as a backstop.

One of the leaders of the petition effort, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., offered an upbeat take on the conference meeting, but he made no promise to shelve the petition effort.

“We will continue working to reach consensus with our colleagues and leaders while remaining committed to the discharge petition,” Curbelo wrote on Twitter.