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House GOP Bucks Leadership on Immigration Votes

Congressman Jeff Denham (Image courtesy of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee/Handout via Reuters )

Rank-and-file House Republicans are directly disobeying House leadership’s exhortations on immigration and pushing for a series of votes on the issue.

Two more moderate Republicans added their names to a discharge petition that would set into motion a string of immigration votes on the House floor this year, bringing the total of GOP backers up to 20.

If all Democrats and five more Republicans sign on, the votes will be scheduled.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) urged members on Wednesday specifically not to sign the petition, saying it effectively hands over control of the House to Democrats and may even cost Republicans the majority in the midterm elections.

Petition backers disagree, saying the majority is at stake if they do nothing on the “Dreamers” issue. They were disappointed Wednesday with leadership’s apparent lack of a plan forward on immigration, although Ryan assured he is working with the White House on it.

“I am confident we all have the votes we need,” said Representative Jeff Denham (R., Calif.), one of the leaders of the petition movement. “This is something the American public is demanding.”

“We don’t want to advance something that won’t become law and just get vetoed even if it made it to the president’s desk,” Ryan argued on Wednesday. “We want to advance something that has a chance of going into law that the president supports.”

Republican members who have signed the petition include Tuesday Group leader John Katko and retiring congressmen Dave Trott and Fred Upton. Many of the Republicans who have jumped on board with the votes package face tough elections this fall, another headache for Ryan.

Republicans in swing districts especially want to force the House to vote before the midterm elections on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay. President Trump has tried to cancel the program, which has been criticized as illegal, but so far courts have blocked his order.

If Ryan and McCarthy do not bring an immigration bill to the floor soon, other Republicans have said they may join the discharge petition coalition.

The conservative Freedom Caucus wants a vote on a single conservative immigration bill instead of the multiple votes the discharge petition calls for.

“We are nervous that we think this immigration thing is coming quickly,” said Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan of Ohio. “So we’re trying to figure out ways we can do right on immigration.”

“I do believe that there is growing pressure on the leadership to put some immigration bill on the floor and have a real debate,” said Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R., N.C.).

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