GOP lawmaker wants to force vote on bill protecting DACA recipients

A House Republican said Thursday he will launch an effort to force a vote on his bipartisan legislation shielding young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) announced he will file a discharge petition next week when the chamber returns to session. The move is all the more striking given that discharge petitions are usually a tool used by the House minority party.

Coffman’s announcement came amid multiple reports on Thursday that President Trump is expected to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as soon as Friday. Nearly 800,000 people who came to the U.S. illegally as children have been granted work permits and deferred deportation under the program created under President Obama in 2012.


“#DACA participants grew up here, went to school here, and should be allowed to stay here. The time has come to take action,” Coffman wrote on Twitter.

At least 218 members must sign onto a discharge petition to trigger a House floor vote and circumvent the House majority party leadership.

Discharge petitions are rarely successful, except in cases where there’s a wide bipartisan coalition in favor of advancing a piece of legislation. The last time a discharge petition worked was in 2015 when House GOP leaders wouldn’t schedule a vote on a bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

Before that, a discharge petition hadn’t successfully been used to dislodge a bill since 2002 for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

Coffman’s bill, which he introduced in January with Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), would extend work permits and deportation deferrals issued under DACA. It would only provide the provisional extension for three years, as a way to push Congress to pass longer-term immigration reform.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

It’s likely that most, if not all, 194 House Democrats would sign onto Coffman’s discharge petition, meaning he would need at least 23 GOP colleagues to endorse his effort.

So far, only 12 mostly centrist Republicans have cosponsored Coffman’s legislation.

Members of the House majority party rarely sign onto, let alone create, discharge petitions given how they would embarrass leadership.

Democrats have filed multiple discharge petitions this year to force votes on bills to demand Trump’s tax returns and an independent investigation into how Russia influenced the 2016 elections.

Only one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), signed onto the Democratic discharge petition that would require the release of Trump’s tax returns. However, neither bill ever had a realistic chance of success given the widespread opposition among Republicans.

Coffman is considered one of the most vulnerable House Republicans heading into the 2018 midterms, given that Hillary Clinton won his district in last year’s election.

Other House Republicans in support of DACA have moved in recent days to pressure Trump to keep the program intact.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) filed amendments to an upcoming government spending package slated for House floor consideration next week that would prohibit the use of funds to change the Department of Homeland Security memo that created DACA. Another amendment he co-sponsored with Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) would allow DACA recipients to serve as government employees.

The House Rules Committee, which is controlled by GOP leaders, is expected to decide next week whether Curbelo’s amendments can get floor votes. House conservatives like Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) have submitted amendments that would eliminate DACA.

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