GOP leaders huddle with discharge petition backers, opponents

GOP leaders huddle with discharge petition backers, opponents
© Greg Nash

House GOP leadership called separate meetings Wednesday evening with both the backers and opponents of an effort to force immigration votes on the House floor, after the effort gained new momentum earlier in the day.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi: 'Thug' Putin not welcome in Congress Interior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia MORE (R-Wis.) and his top four lieutenants, who are facing pressure from within their own ranks to bring immigration legislation to the floor, first huddled with the centrist Republicans leading a discharge petition that would set up a series of floor votes on immigration bills.

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Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloOvernight Energy: Proposed rule would roll back endangered species protections | House passes Interior, EPA spending | House votes to disavow carbon tax House votes to disavow carbon tax Mueller indictments: Congressional candidate asked Russian operatives for info on opponent MORE (R-Fla.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonA vision for curing blindness counts on congressional action House GOP struggles to win votes for compromise immigration measure Clinton advocates 'sane gun laws' at Robert Kennedy memorial MORE (R-Mich.) and Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamKoch group pushes DACA fix on Capitol Hill House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE House GOP leaders fail to find compromise immigration fix MORE (R-Calif.) said GOP leaders emphasized their commitment to bringing immigration legislation to the floor and even kicked around some broad ideas for a potential proposal.

"You know, we had a long discussion about the policy and leadership is looking to find a path forward, so it was a productive conversation,” Denham told reporters after the meeting in Ryan’s office suite. “But any path forward is going to require them talking to everyone else in our conference, too.”

The discharge petition picked up two new Republican signatures on Wednesday, despite GOP leaders pleading with rank-and-file members earlier in the day to stand down. Now, just five more Republican signatures are needed to force the immigration votes if all 193 Democrats join the effort.

“The meeting was prompted when we got to number 20 today,” Upton said. “They know we’re continuing to make upward progress.”

Curbelo described the meeting as “productive” and “moving in the right direction,” though he cautioned they aren’t on the edge of a deal yet. He also stressed that they aren't backing down on their discharge petition.

“Clearly we have had a positive impact on leadership and on this institution, because now this issue is being taken seriously,” Curbelo told reporters outside of Ryan’s office. “We have our plan, we’re sticking to it, but we’re willing to see what theirs looks like.”

GOP leaders aren’t just facing pressure from the party’s center over the hot-button issue.

Conservative hard-liners, who vehemently oppose the discharge petition, are pressing Ryan to allow a stand-alone vote on one of the conservative immigration measures included in the discharge petition — a move they say would effectively derail the entire discharge petition for procedural reasons.

Some Freedom Caucus members said they would be willing to back an endangered GOP farm bill if Ryan agrees to put the stand-alone bill on the floor in a bid to kill the discharge petition.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMeadows calls ex-Trump aide surveillance docs 'potentially groundbreaking development' Freedom Caucus lawmakers call on DOJ to probe Rosenstein allegations House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day MORE (R-N.C.), along with Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMore than 100 ex-Ohio State students share allegations of sexual misconduct by doctor: AP The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ohio) and Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryMcCarthy defends Jordan amid Ohio State abuse scandal Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan House rejects farm bill as conservatives revolt MORE (R-Pa.), met with Ryan and his team Wednesday evening.

Meadows has said enough of his members are undecided on the farm bill that it could make the difference of whether the measure passes or not.

“It doesn’t seem like an ag bill can move until we get this immigration issue worked out satisfactorily,” Perry said after meeting with Ryan. “That hasn’t been worked out yet.”

Meadows applauded leadership for keeping conservative members in the loop while attempting to find a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which protected immigrants who came to U.S. illegally as children from deportation — that satisfies all factions of the conference, but noted nothing conclusive came of the Wednesday evening meeting.

“I mean, I think the next step is figuring out what the next step is,” he said.

Leadership said they’ll continue discussions with members as they try to figure out a solution.

“I've always believed discharge petitions are not a way to govern,” McCarthy told The Hill. “So people have a difference in opinions, so you bring people together, start talking and solve the problem — that's what we're doing.”