Ryan Says Trump Is All In on Next Week’s Immigration Votes
Posted June 13, 2018 3:31 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday that his plan to bring two immigration bills up for a vote next week had the approval of President Donald Trump, who is enthusiastic about the effort, according to a person who attended the meeting.
Whether either bill can pass is very much in doubt.
Wednesday’s gathering came less than 12 hours after Ryan’s office announced that the House would consider immigration next week — but not bipartisan bills aimed primarily at protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Instead, lawmakers will consider a hard-line measure that emphasizes border security and a somewhat more moderate compromise measure, yet to be finalized, that still meets Trump’s standards.
But the approval of an immigration hard-liner like Trump only underscored the growing sense that a rebellion by moderate Republicans seeking bipartisanship had utterly failed. It underscored the looming reality that the president has effectively acquired the last say over the actions of the Republican Congress.
Lawmakers attending the meeting said the compromise bill will be built around four principles — Trump has called them the “four pillars” — that the president has insisted any immigration bill contain: a path to citizenship for the young unauthorized children known as Dreamers; beefed-up border security, including $25 billion for the wall the president wants to build; an end to the current diversity visa lottery system, which is aimed at bringing in immigrants from underrepresented nations; and limits on family-based migration, known as chain migration.
Ryan told reporters that the “last thing I want to do is bring a bill out of here that I know the president won’t support.”
Democrats slammed the plan as a betrayal of bipartisan efforts to address the fate of young immigrants, known as Dreamers.
“Let’s be clear: these Republican proposals aren’t to provide relief for Dreamers, they’re an avenue for mass deportations and to stoke fear in communities, said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The hard-line bill, known as the Goodlatte bill after its chief author, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, is highly unlikely to garner enough votes to pass the House.
But the compromise bill also faces a highly questionable path. Democrats are all but certain to resist a bill built to the White House’s liking, and conservatives, having secured a vote on the Goodlatte bill, may have little incentive to vote for a slightly more moderate measure that could be perceived as providing “amnesty” to Dreamers.
“We’re working to try to get a bill that will pass,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., a leader of moderate Republicans who have pushed for the House to vote on immigration. “I don’t think anyone’s in a position to make any guarantees on whether a bill will pass or not.”
Another leader of the immigration moderates, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., expressed hope that some Democrats would be persuaded to support the compromise bill out of a desire to address the fate of the Dreamers.
“We’re hopeful that the main thing that both parties look at is that this provides certainty for every Dreamer that’s out there,” Denham said.
Immigrant rights advocates were far less sanguine, accusing the immigration moderates of caving to party pressure.
“It’s a show vote for the right-wingers and a show vote for the so-called moderates,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights group. “Neither will pass. They will not get Democratic support. It’s a sham. The heroic moderates who were going to fight for Dreamers turned out to be easily rolled by Ryan and the Freedom Caucus.” The plan Ryan unveiled to his members will put the politically divisive issue of immigration front and center in the national debate in the middle of a difficult election year for Republicans. It comes nine months after Trump moved to end the Obama-era initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protected the young unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.
After moving to end DACA in September, Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to replace it by March, but so far lawmakers have been unable to do so. The Senate debated immigration for a week in February, and passed nothing.
Ryan’s decision to put two bills on the floor next week was the product of weeks of negotiations between House conservatives and moderates, with House Republican leaders including Ryan serving as facilitators. The moderates had been threatening to force a series of immigration votes this month by using an arcane parliamentary maneuver known as a “discharge petition,” but they fell two signatures short of the 218 required to push the petition through.
The moderates needed 25 Republicans to affix their signatures to the petition but got only 23. All 193 Democrats signed. Had the petition gone through, the House would have also voted on the Dream Act, a stand-alone bill backed by Democrats that would offer a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, and a bipartisan measure that would pair a path to citizenship with increased border security.
Democrats are furious that those measures will not come to a vote; the bipartisan bill was widely expected to pass the House with support from both parties. In a statement issued late Tuesday night, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, lambasted the Republican leaders.
“Instead of standing courageously with a bipartisan group of 216 representatives, they cowered to the hyper-partisanship that has broken Congress and failed to deliver solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems,” she said.
But Lujan Grisham thanked those who signed the petition, “especially the 23 Republicans who stood up to their leadership.”
One of those 23 Republicans, Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey, said the moderates had shown that “we are a great force in the conference.”
“I think it is our signing the discharge petition that is in large measure responsible for the fact that this is going to be brought to the floor of the House,” Lance said.
Curbelo insisted that moderates were not abandoning the petition drive, suggesting it could be rekindled if necessary.
“It’s there if we need it,” he said, “and we may need it.”