House GOP Hunkers Down for Night of Negotiations

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) is already in a room with House colleagues such as Iowa representative Steve King and Idaho representative Raul Labrador, trying to hammer out a deal on the House border bill.

“We’re going to sit down and see if there are places we need to tweak some language,” Blackburn told National Review Online following the special Republican conference meeting Thursday afternoon.

Representative Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.) says he thinks “it’ll be easy to get the votes” — the leadership team pulled the bill earlier Thursday afternoon when it was clear they were four shy of the 218 needed to pass — but it’s not clear how.

“I think the problem is that when you put stronger language in there you lose people at one end, and when as you weaken language, you lose people at the other end,” Representative John Fleming (R., La.) tells NRO. “See, we have a certain number of pro-amnesty members in the Republican caucus and they seem to be pretty recalcitrant about toughening up the language.”

House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) suggested there might be a way to sway at least some of the members who are currently opposed to the bill without adding tougher language. Short of language halting the implementation of President Obama’s DACA program, conservative opponents of the current legislation wanted to add asylum provisions written by House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.).

“It was getting into some nitty-gritty of language, so I found that to be encouraging,” another House Republican says of the debate during the conference meeting.

Encouraging or not, the asylum language alone won’t sway those focused on President Obama’s impending executive orders pertaining to immigration.

“The pitch is that we have to show America that we can govern, that we’re willing to act, that we can’t just go home and do nothing, that that might hurt our electoral chances,” Fleming says, describing what he heard from supporters of the working group’s border bill.

“But, again, I don’t really believe that,” he continued. “I do think we should speak out. I think we should have a unified message. But the unified message is we stand ready to work with Harry Reid and the Senate — and the president — but they’ve got to do the right thing. They can’t just put out edicts and give blanket amnesty.”

The whole House Republican conference will meet again Friday morning.

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