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January 16th, 2019

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Ryan aims to quash GOP-led rebellion trying to force votes on immigration

Mike DeBonis

By Mike DeBonis The Washington Post

Published May 11,2018

  Ryan aims to quash GOP-led rebellion trying to force votes on immigration
 
  Melina Mara for The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Paul Ryan moved Thursday to put down a brewing rebellion in the Republican ranks, saying he wants to put immigration legislation up for a vote later this year as centrist lawmakers threatened to take that decision out of his hands.

Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters he would "like to" take up an immigration bill, one day after 17 Republicans signed a petition that would force votes on a number of immigration bills. A discharge petition is a rarely successful legislative maneuver that overrides the speaker's power to determine what legislation comes to the House floor.

"Going down a path and having some kind of a spectacle on the floor that just results in a veto doesn't solve the problem," Ryan said, suggesting that President Donald Trump would reject the bills that the petition would discharge. "We actually would like to solve this problem, and that is why I think it's important for us to come up with a solution that the president can support."

Republican leaders have cajoled rank-and-file lawmakers not to sign on to the petition, privately arguing that the issue of immigration could create an unpredictable and politically treacherous free-for-all in the middle of an election year.

"A discharge petition is not the way to solve the problem," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Thursday. "We're working to actually get this fixed, and hopefully it can be done in a way where we can all come together."

Ryan and fellow Republican leaders have struggled for months to build support for a bill that could pass the House with only GOP votes. Conservative hard-liners have demanded policy concessions in return for supporting a path to legal status for "dreamers" - young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, a group that has been protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Democrats and moderate Republicans favor legislation that would grant a more permanent solution for dreamers, perhaps in exchange for enhancements to border security.

GOP leaders appeared to have slowed the rebellion. Only one additional Republican - Rep. Steve Knight of California - signed the petition Thursday, leaving it still at least seven GOP signatures short of success. All 193 Democrats are expected to join it once enough Republicans sign to put the required 218 signatures within reach.

But several Republicans who had not signed the petition said Thursday that they were considering it. They said they were waiting for Ryan and other House leaders to present a plan that would allow some sort of immigration legislation to come to the floor.

"I'll be patient, but it's running a little thin," said Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., a member of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus. "I'll be signing it next week if we don't have some kind of plan."

"I think it's an issue we have to address," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., who has co-sponsored a bipartisan immigration bill and said he had not ruled out signing the petition.

But several other Republicans who are supporting bipartisan compromise legislation said they were not willing to sidestep the GOP leadership to force a vote.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who is seeking reelection in a hotly contested swing district, said that he wants to see a "sense of urgency" on immigration but that, "I'm not ready to sign a petition."

"I feel like it puts our leadership in a bad spot," he said. "I'd like to give them time to work this stuff out."

Most of the Republicans who have signed the discharge petition represent swing districts with a significant number of DACA recipients, and they are anticipating Democratic attacks on Congress's failure to act to protect them after Trump moved last year to cancel the program.

Ryan has played a cautious role in the immigration debate since becoming speaker in 2015. Ryan was a leading proponent of legislation that would grant a potential path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants - not just those who arrived as children, putting him at odds with the GOP's hard-line base.

Upon becoming speaker, Ryan pledged to House conservatives that he would not bring up an immigration bill unless it had the support of a majority of Republicans. But some lawmakers have suggested that despite his public opposition to the discharge petition - an open challenge to his authority - he might not be upset if the House takes action on immigration before he retires from Congress in January.

"The speaker has made it very clear what his positions on immigration reform have been in the past," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., one of the leaders of the discharge effort. "I know where his heart is and, ultimately, I know that he wants to find a solution, as well."

A growing push to forge a bipartisan compromise ahead of an expected March deadline for DACA's expiration fell apart due to a pair of blows: First, courts put the end of the program on hold pending appeals that are expected to reach the Supreme Court, and second, a week-long Senate debate failed to produce a consensus bill that could win the necessary 60 votes.

That snuffed out momentum in the House, where GOP leaders have struggled to build consensus inside their party.

Ryan conceded Thursday that a GOP-only immigration bill - such as the legislation co-sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that leaders have tried to push through for months - would not be able to pass the House.

"It's clear to us that we're going to have to have a bill that's going to be bipartisan, but one that the president can support," he said.

But it is unclear that a bill that Trump supports could pass either chamber of Congress. A bill that adhered to a White House framework released this year garnered only 39 votes after a Senate debate in February, and the Trump administration subsequently explored a potentially narrower deal during budget negotiations in March.

The discharge petition would set up votes on a number of bills, including the conservative Goodlatte-McCaul bill; the more liberal Dream Act, which offers dreamers a path to permanent residency; and a bipartisan compromise bill that falls in between. Ryan would also be free to offer a fourth bill of his choosing.

The Goodlatte-McCaul bill has languished due to opposition from moderates who dislike the temporary protections it offers to DACA recipients - a three-year renewable work permit that would not offer a path to permanent residency or citizenship. Even many conservative members have balked at other provisions of the bill, particularly provisions that could decimate farmers and ranchers who rely on immigrant labor.

The legislation would require use of the federal E-Verify system to check employees' eligibility to work legally, and while the bill would expand guest worker visas, undocumented immigrants now in the United States would have to return to their home countries before they could return and work legally.

Previously:

05/11/18 In bid to reveal secret memo, GOP congressman plans to seek federal audit of Mueller probe

04/10/18 Key Senate Republicans warn White House against pursuing spending cuts

02/06/18 Why congressional GOP is more optimistic after roller-coaster year

02/02/18 Trump wants his immigration framework debated in Senate, in bid to overcome GOP divisions

02/01/18 'We've got a story to tell,' Pence tells Republicans, urging them to tell it

11/27/17 Congress confronts jam-packed December with shutdown deadline looming

09/18/17 In the House, an early spate of GOP retirements means the party won't haCongress confronts jam-packed December with shutdown deadline loomingve incumbents on the ballot in several closely divided districts

07/28/17 House passes bill to boost defense, fund border wall

07/26/17 Republicans defend Sessions against attacks and warn that a move against Mueller could lead to a lawmaker revolt

07/18/17: House GOP unveils budget plan that attaches major spending cuts to coming tax reform bill

06/19/17: Today: Tougher immigration policies face first major legislative test in Trump era

06/17/17: A Watch out, Pelosi: Top GOP super PAC sets its 2018 strategy

06/13/17: A draft resolution of impeachment includes some intergenerational copying-and-pasting.

06/23/16: Why House Republicans aren't giving in to Dems' demands for a gun vote

06/16/16: Marco Rubio says he will reconsider leaving Senate

06/07/16: The biggest question in Florida politics: 'Is Rubio running or what?'

05/13/16: Ryan is torn between his conservative principles and his institutional responsibility, with his future as a national leader hanging in the balance

05/10/16: Is Paul Ryan in danger of being 'Cantored'?

03/09/16: How Trump is ruining Paul Ryan's speakership

02/09/16: Memo to Paul Ryan: Obama shouldn't get a pass

01/29/16: How Ted Cruz earned one of the few Capitol Hill endorsements that matters to conservatives

12/09/15: Leadership worries that many House GOP members are voting 'no' on tough bills while hoping they pass

12/07/15: House Freedom Caucus looking to flex its new muscle in 2016 races

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