Freedom Caucus weighs option to derail forced vote on immigration

Freedom Caucus weighs option to derail forced vote on immigration
© Greg Nash

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP lawmaker says evidence might have been tampered with in Flynn case House postpones vote on compromise immigration bill The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines – First lady makes surprise visit to migrant children at border MORE (R-N.C.) on Tuesday floated using the farm bill as leverage in order to derail an effort by Republicans to force a vote on immigration.

Meadows said the conservative group might push for a vote on an immigration bill introduced in January by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTrump: GOP needs Dem votes for immigration bills, complains Dems 'won't vote for anything' House GOP leaders push immigration vote to next week GOP lawmaker calls on Trump to fire Stephen Miller MORE (R-Va.) in exchange for support on the farm bill, which has failed to gain traction in the House. The farm bill is a top priority for retiring House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer House approves five-year farm bill House postpones vote on compromise immigration bill MORE (R-Wis.) due to its language on welfare reform.

House GOP leadership had previously promised Meadows a vote on the Goodlatte immigration bill in exchange for the caucus's support on a must-pass government funding bill.

"You know we had discussions tonight about really encouraging our leadership to just stay true to the promise that they made during the CR votes," he told reporters Tuesday, referring to the continuing resolution. "If you recall there was a CR where they said they would give us a vote on Goodlatte. And so since we're whipping the farm bill very hard for a vote this week, we believe that it's probably time to call the question on the Goodlatte bill as well."

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Eighteen House Republicans recently signed on to a discharge petition — introduced by Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloHouse GOP leaders push immigration vote to next week House GOP discharge petition supporter says he likely won’t sign a second one Hardline immigration bill fails in the House MORE (R-Fla.) last week — that would force votes on four immigration proposals. The one that receives the most votes over 218 would then be sent to the upper chamber, in what is known as a “Queen of the Hill” rule.

Meadows, who is not on board with the discharge petition, said bringing the Goodlatte bill to the floor would hinder the timing of the Queen of the Hill rule. Parliamentary procedure dictates that a discharge petition considered under a special rule in the House Rules Committee must sit for seven days and can only be voted on during the second or fourth Monday of the month.

"When you have a rule it ripens, it's attached to a certain bill, so if you bring that bill up you can only consider it once," Meadows said. "So in doing that, the rule that's attached now, the Queen of the Hill rule, would have to find another vehicle to be attached to in order to be effective. And so the clock would start all over again."

Meadows said he'd like to see a vote on the measure sometime this week or next, suggesting the group would have the numbers to derail the farm bill if necessary.

"The only leverage would be if it moved a significant number of ‘yes’ votes, and that's what we are checking with our members to do," he said.

House Republican leadership has also been highly critical of the use of discharge petitions, arguing it places the power in the hands of the minority party. Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump mocks 'elites' at campaign rally Rally crowd chants 'CNN sucks' after Trump rips media Trump's America fights back MORE (R-Calif.) met with President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE at the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss a path forward on immigration that can pass both chambers.

Critics of the immigration discharge petition have suggested Ryan could potentially block votes on Mondays as a way to thwart the effort. Curbelo blasted the idea, saying they should have a free and open debate on the topic.

"That's pure cowardice. Why are these people scared of their own bill? This process guarantees them a vote. Are they afraid to have a vote on their own bill? Are they worried they'll be embarrassed?" he said Tuesday. "So now people are suggesting using the rules to suppress members and to prevent debate in the House? That sounds like a strategy that's motivated by fear and cowardice. Let's have the debate, let's bring the Goodlatte bill. Maybe they can get it passed, who knows?"

Rafael Bernal contributed.