Dems target dozens of Republicans in 'last effort' of the year on immigration reform

House Democrats on Tuesday increased their pressure on GOP supporters of immigration reform to fight harder for a bill this year.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Democrats are urging those Republicans who've made a verbal commitment to comprehensive reform "to put their pen where their mouth is," in the words of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and sign a discharge petition to force a floor vote over the objections of GOP leaders.

"We're calling out the members of the House … who have said they support immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship," Polis said on a press call. "We're saying, 'Do something about your support.' "

With November's elections inching ever-closer, the Democrats see the next few months as their last chance to overhaul the nation's immigration system this Congress. The Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill last summer, and a failure of the House to follow suit before January would be a huge set-back to reform advocates, who would be forced to start from scratch in both chambers in 2015.

The Democrats acknowledge they almost certainly won't attract enough Republicans to their discharge petition to force a vote. (The 191 members who have endorsed the petition – all Democrats – are well shy of the 218 needed to bring the bill to the floor). But the design is to generate local headlines and build enough public pressure that GOP leaders are left with no choice but to act.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) compared the current immigration push to that surrounding last year's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – another measure opposed by Republican leaders, who reluctantly brought it to the floor after months of attacks from Democrats and women's rights groups.

"It seemed we were at loggerheads and we were going nowhere with that … but then the pressure from around the nation became too enormous," Chu said. "The pressure from around the nation [on immigration reform] has to be just as enormous."

Chu said that simple demographics make immigration reform a bipartisan issue, and there are "a significant number of Republicans that know that they have to pay attention to their district."

"We have this variety of viewpoints within the Republican Party," she said. "And [Majority Whip] Kevin McCarthy has to consider all of them, he has to consider the survival of the Republican Party."

The Democrats are targeting 30 Republicans who have voiced some degree of support for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 12 million immigrants estimated to be living in the country illegally.

The Republican targets are Reps. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungRyan picks his negotiating team for tax cut bill Alaska senator proposes drilling in Arctic refuge Overnight Energy: Perry takes heat for sexual assault comments | Clovis withdraws nomination for USDA post | Battle lines drawn on Arctic refuge drilling | Energy regulator back to full strength MORE (Alaska), Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartAG Sessions to face House panel in closed-door hearing House Republicans growing impatient with Russia probe GOP rep would ‘recommend’ not paying much attention to Trump tweets MORE (Utah), Sean DuffySean Patrick DuffyThe Republican tax bill will cut thousands of Puerto Rico jobs Rep. Hensarling will push deregulation until retirement GOP lawmaker: Trump-Tillerson tensions are part of the president's 'strategy' MORE (Wis.), Spencer BachusSpencer Thomas BachusTrump bank nominee gets rough reception at confirmation hearing Overnight Finance: Breaking - GOP delays release of tax bill | Changes to 401(k)s, state and local taxes hold up bill | Trump aims to sign tax legislation by Christmas | Hensarling to retire after term | Trump to repeal arbitration rule Senators, don't put Ex-Im Bank's fossil fuel financing back in business MORE (Ala.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (Wis.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiDACA advocates see efforts gaining steam in the House Overnight Finance: House passes .2T funding package for 2018 | FTC launches Equifax probe | Mnuchin defends honeymoon jet request | House scraps measure to boost credit union regulator oversight MORE (Nev.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzDem demands documents from TSA after scathing security report Chaffetz replacement sworn in as House member Democrats expand House map after election victories MORE (Utah), Joe Heck (Nev.), Peter King (N.Y.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonSeven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill Texas GOP lawmaker won’t seek reelection MORE (Texas), John Carter (Texas), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Aaron Schock (Ill.), Steve Pearce (N.M.), Tim GriffinTim GriffinFlynn discloses lobbying that may have helped Turkey Tea Party class reassesses record Huckabee's daughter to run '16 campaign MORE (Ark.), Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP leaders agree to consider Dec. 30 spending bill House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (Mich.), Vance McAllister (La.) and Renee Ellmers (N.C.).

Although the Senate bill passed with broad bipartisan support, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE (R-Ohio) has refused to bring it to the floor, saying he prefers a piecemeal approach to one sweeping bill.

Even that strategy remains uncertain, however, as a number of conservative Republicans are opposed to passing any related proposal through the House, for fear it would inherit provisions they oppose – notably the citizenship language – in a conference with the Senate bill. With that in mind, it's unclear if even piecemeal bills popular with Republicans will get a floor vote ahead of the elections.

In the face of that uncertainty, a number of immigrant rights advocates on and off Capitol Hill have pressured President Obama to take the issue into his own hands, particularly when it comes to deportations. In 2012, Obama had adopted a program allowing qualified illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to remain and work legally, and advocates have pushed him to expand that initiative to more immigrants ever since.

Rep. Joe GarciaJose (Joe) Antonio GarciaHispanic Caucus to invite Republicans to join Vulnerable House incumbents build up war chests Florida Dems hosting fundraiser for GOP lawmaker MORE (D-Fla.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he's spoken this month on that topic with both Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. If the House doesn't move legislation soon, Garcia predicted, the administration will step in.

"This is our last effort [this year] to do this as a legislative fix," Garcia said. "I, like a lot of my colleagues, obviously want [Obama] to act if nothing is done [in Congress]. But let there be no excuse from the Republicans that they are creating the need for the president to act if they do not act."