House Democrats on Tuesday increased their pressure on GOP supporters of immigration reform to fight harder for a bill this year.
"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 YoungDon YoungAlaska lawmakers mull legislation to block Obama drilling ban House rejects GOP rep's push for vote on impeaching IRS head Our National Forests weren't designed just for timber MORE (Alaska), Chris StewartChris StewartGOP lawmaker who compared Trump to Mussolini will vote for him House GOP files brief in ObamaCare case Third-party candidates roil presidential race in Utah MORE (Utah), Sean DuffySean DuffyGOP rep on Dems skipping inauguration: ‘Put your big-boy pants on’ Huizenga to chair influential subcommittee overseeing Wall Street Donald Trump should fire Richard Cordray MORE (Wis.), Spencer BachusSpencer BachusSpencer Bachus: True leadership The FDA should approve the first disease-modifying treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Study: Payday lenders fill GOP coffers MORE (Ala.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump’s Commerce pick backs public spending on transportation The Hill's 12:30 Report States sue to block last-minute Obama environmental rule MORE (Wis.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Mark AmodeiMark AmodeiDems launch early '18 attacks on GOP Senate targets Bush backers flock to Rubio Rubio rolls out endorsements on eve of Nevada caucus MORE (Nev.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFederal ethics chief resists House GOP call for private interview Ethics chief thrust into spotlight by Trump battle Sunday shows preview: Trump allies appear after John Lewis criticism MORE (Utah), Joe Heck (Nev.), Peter King (N.Y.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Sam JohnsonSam JohnsonJuan Williams: The real fight is over entitlements Week ahead: Senate ramps up work on ObamaCare repeal; Nominees on hot seat Ill. rep named new chairman for House tax-policy subcommittee MORE (Texas), John Carter (Texas), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Aaron Schock (Ill.), Steve Pearce (N.M.), Tim GriffinTim GriffinTea Party class reassesses record Huckabee's daughter to run '16 campaign Lawmakers seek Purple Heart for victims of Little Rock shooting MORE (Ark.), Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP lawmaker on Trump's Lewis tweets: 'Dude, just stop' House passes Mattis waiver, setting up quick confirmation House takes first step to repeal ObamaCare MORE (Mich.), Vance McAllister (La.) and Renee Ellmers (N.C.).
Although the Senate bill passed with broad bipartisan support, Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTop aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions An anti-government ideologue like Mulvaney shouldn't run OMB Boehner endorses DeVos for Education secretary 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 GarciaJoe GarciaFreshman Curbelo wins reelection in Fla. LGBT Republican groups campaigning for Curbelo in Fla. House Democrats amplify anti-Trump strategy 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."