Dems give members green light to sign immigration petition

Dems give members green light to sign immigration petition
© Greg Nash

House Democratic leaders are telling their members the time has come to sign on to a Republican discharge petition aimed at forcing votes in the House on immigration. 

Democratic leaders had encouraged their-rank-and-file to hold off on signing the petition to see if it garnered the 25 GOP signatures that would be needed to reach a majority. 

But now, with 20 Republicans having endorsed the measure, Democratic leaders are changing their tune.

"Members are strongly urged to sign the Curbelo Queen-of-the-Hill discharge petition on the House Floor, which is available for signatures immediately," reads a whip notice sent out to the Democratic Caucus by its leaders Thursday.

"Due to the timing of when a motion to discharge could be made on the Floor, and the current voting schedule, today is a critical day to try to achieve 218 signatures," the notice states.

Before the notice, a handful of Democrats had already signed the petition. 

At House votes Thursday evening, Democrats were quick to heed the advice of leaders, queuing up on the floor to sign the petition. The line snaked from the dais to the back of the chamber.
 
Not every Democrat is on board. Rep. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaProgressives’ wins highlight divide in Democratic Party Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry MORE, who represents a border district in Texas, is concerned the Queen of the Hill process will lead to new border wall construction, which he adamantly opposes.
 
"I ain't signing it," Vela said heading into the votes. "I'm not going to facilitate a vote that will provide border wall funding."

Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloCook Political Report moves 4 GOP seats to 'toss-up' category GOP lawmaker: Every white suburban district in the country will be a swing district this year The Hill's Morning Report — Election Day drama for Trump MORE (R-Fla.) last week introduced the discharge petition, a rarely used procedural tactic that can be used to go around leadership and force votes on legislation.

Republican leaders have urged their members not to back the petition, warning the move will cede control of the floor to Democrats. 

If Curbelo's discharge petition reaches 218 signatures, it would force a floor vote on a proposal introduced by Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamSteyer group launching 0,000 digital ad campaign targeting millennials The farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act Police chief ‘disgusted’ after his son charged in attack of 71-year-old Sikh man MORE (R-Calif.) that's known as a Queen of the Hill rule.

Under Queen of the Hill, different proposals on a same issue are voted on, and the bill that gets the most votes past a 50 percent threshold is approved and sent to the Senate.

Denham's proposal would include four bills designed to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which,  before President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE cancelled it in September, provided protection form deportation for certain immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

The proposals in Denham's Queen of the Hill rule are a conservative bill proposed by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Republicans become entangled by family feuds over politics House GOP prepares to grill DOJ official linked to Steele dossier MORE (R-Va.) that would grant temporary status to so-called Dreamers while imposing a series of restrictive measures on legal and illegal immigration; the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship to at least 1.8 million Dreamers; the USA Act, a bipartisan compromise that would pair Dream Act-like measures with $25 billion in border security; and an open slot for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNew Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders House Dem: Party's aging leaders is 'a problem' Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Wis.) to propose an immigration bill of his choosing. 

Denham specifically wrote his rule to avoid confrontation with leadership, giving space to the measure top GOP brass had been whipping — the Goodlatte bill — and the slot for Ryan.

But leaders still opposed the Queen of the Hill rule, and later the discharge petition, arguing both gave far too much power to the minority party.

That set off negotiations between Denham's camp and party leaders, as the conservative Freedom Caucus intervened and threatened to derail an unrelated measure, the farm bill, if Ryan and Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyNew Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders Internet security expert: 'I don’t think it’s right to say’ tech giants are politically biased Poll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi MORE (R-Calif.) did not stop the discharge petition.

Those negotiations could yield a vote on the Goodlatte bill — almost certain to fail — and an alternate immigration plan designed to garner 218 Republican votes in the House and then possibily win passage in the Senate. But finding a bill that can win broad GOP support in the House has proven elusive since Trump's DACA announcement in September.

The negotiations between Ryan, Denham and Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHill.TV poll: Majority of Republicans say Trump best represents the values of the GOP Meadows says FBI made 'right' decision firing Strzok Republicans have spent .5 million at Trump properties since he took office: report MORE (R-N.C.) have struck a nerve with Democrats, who don't want to be left out of the legislative process on one of their core issues. 

Democrats are keen to prove their proposals, the Dream Act and the USA Act, have wide support among members. They're also predicting the Goodlatte bill would have a weak showing, countering the notion of widespread support for Trump's immigration policies.

They also expect the fourth proposal — presumably similar to the deal being negotiated between Ryan, Denham and Meadows — to garner fewer votes than either of the bills they support.

- Updated at 6:19 p.m.