Freedom Caucus chair: Expect DACA vote in February

Freedom Caucus chair: Expect DACA vote in February
© Greg Nash

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Tuesday the House will likely wait until the last minute to deal with a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"We're going to have to deal with it, but we've got until March to deal with it, which means on Feb. 15," said Meadows.

President Trump on Tuesday announced that he was ending the program, which gave nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children work permits and deferral from deportation.

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the program would wind down over the next six months but would allow for current beneficiaries to keep their protections until the end of their two-year permits.

DHS stopped taking new applications effective immediately, and it set an Oct. 5 deadline for renewal applications, leading some to call for a legislative solution to be put on the floor in September.

But September will already be a difficult legislative month, as Congress grapples with budget negotiations and raising the debt ceiling.

"I don't think we'll deal with DACA before the month's end," said Meadows. "We've got so many different deadlines coming up in September, with very little left over [in the legislative period]."

Meadows added that he expected House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) to keep to his promise of not putting immigration bills up for a House vote unless they have the support of at least half the Republican conference. 

"That's a promise he made. He's gotta figure out whether he's going to stay with that promise or not," Meadows said.

"There was a concern that Democrat-led legislation would get on the floor, and he made a commitment that that would not happen," he added.

Ryan said Tuesday that Trump ending the program was a move "made to restore the proper role of the executive and legislative branches."

"It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country,” said Ryan in a statement.

While Meadows said Congress would likely not act before the March 5 deadline was close, he agreed the cancellation would speed up a legislative fix.

"All we're doing is speeding that up, perhaps [Trump's] taking some negative fallout because of it, but it's something we're going to have to deal with it," he said.

Meadows added that Trump made a "prudent" decision to cancel DACA.

"The compassionate part of him didn't really want to deal with it," said Meadows. 

"There are some who say he should've gotten rid of it yesterday or today, there's another group who says never get rid of it, and I think this is a prudent decision that would allow the legislative fix that ultimately is going to happen anyway," he added.