House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE

In a surprising reversal, House GOP leaders have scrapped a floor vote on a Democratic measure calling for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Instead, the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution — authored by Rep. Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsTrump officials attended conference where speaker said carbon dioxide makes planet 'greener' Trump’s endorsements cement power but come with risks House backs resolution expressing support for ICE MORE (R-La.) — to support ICE, Majority Leader 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.) told reporters on Monday.

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“What I found so interesting is the Democrats introduced a bill to abolish ICE ... we give them an opportunity, and they say they don’t want to vote for it,” said McCarthy, who controls which bills come to the House floor.

The California Republican said Thursday he intended to bring the abolish ICE bill to the floor in an attempt to force vulnerable Democrats to take a difficult vote. GOP leaders thought Democrats in swing districts would be reluctant to criticize the federal agency responsible for fighting human and drug trafficking and border enforcement.

But Democrats responded by vowing to vote “no” and dismissed it as an election year show vote. 

It’s a “political stunt,” Democratic Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanHow Twitter vaulted 'Abolish ICE' into the mainstream Ocasio-Cortez tiptoes into Washington Gillibrand: 'We should get rid of ICE' if Dems flip House and Senate MORE (Wis.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalRecord numbers of women nominated for governor, Congress Liberal Dems lay groundwork to push 'Medicare for all' Dems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients MORE (Wash.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDem lawmaker to lead vigil in New York park following anti-immigrant rally Gillibrand: 'We should get rid of ICE' if Dems flip House and Senate NAACP statehood statement leaves Puerto Ricans perplexed MORE (N.Y.) — the architects of the progressive-backed bill — said in a joint statement.

House 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.) and his team weren’t on board with the decision to hold a vote, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. The decision to reverse course followed a standing meeting between Ryan and McCarthy on Friday, the source said.

Critics were concerned the move could ultimately backfire in the long run. 

“After being called on their bluff, Democrats ran scared from their own bill,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “Democrats will now have the chance to stand with the majority of Americans who support ICE and vote for this resolution, or follow the extreme voices on the far left calling for abolishment of an agency that protects us.”

After being told of the GOP’s change of course, Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances New Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders House Dem: Party's aging leaders is 'a problem' MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday the idea was silly to begin with.

“They never should have brought it up in the first place,” Pelosi told The Hill. “I don’t know what they’re doing. They keep changing their minds.”

While the vote has been called off for now, House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseNew Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders Poll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi Trump ally suspends reelection campaign MORE (R-La.) still would like the bill to come to the floor.

“Whip Scalise remains supportive of having this vote. He brought it up at [Republican Study Committee] steering and deputy whip this week and was met with overwhelming support from members,” a source familiar with the Louisiana Republican’s thinking told The Hill.

Earlier, vulnerable GOP moderates had expressed hesitations about taking the abolish ICE vote, arguing they’d rather focus on policy that can pass Congress.

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.) said that while he thinks local law enforcement has done a “very good job working with all levels of law enforcement,” he doesn’t believe ICE should be abolished. He also said he thinks the agency should concentrate its efforts on battling issues like human trafficking.

“I want to see us pass policy, make some changes that affect the entire country,” Denham told The Hill

Other moderate Republican leaders also said they would not vote to abolish ICE.  

“Those who want to abolish ICE represent an extremist ideology that clearly has overtaken the Democratic party,” said Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedReforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain Trump ally suspends reelection campaign Congress should prohibit members from serving on company boards MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Problems Solvers Caucus. “I stand with our customs officers and their families as they risk their lives daily protecting all of us.”

Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s GOP feuds dominate ahead of midterms Trump signs 7B annual defense policy bill into law The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairwoman of the Tuesday Group, a bloc of GOP moderates, agreed that ICE should not be scrapped.

“I, of course, don’t agree with abolishing ICE. I represent a border district [next to Canada]. I think it’s important to support our law enforcement and make sure that we have a legal immigration system in this country,” Stefanik told The Hill on Monday.

“The thinking was getting Democrats on record because it’s a very divisive issue for them,” she added. “It would put my opponent in a difficult position.”

—Updated at 10:04 p.m. Melanie Zanona contributed.