GOP lawmaker drops effort to force vote to extend DACA protections

Greg Nash

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said Thursday that he won’t pursue an effort to force a vote on his bill to extend work permits and deferred deportations for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Coffman said he made an agreement with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold off on gathering support for his discharge petition for the bill, which would extend protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years.

Coffman filed the discharge petition on Tuesday, which would need 218 signatures to trigger a House floor vote. Discharge petitions are typically used by the House minority party to bring attention to legislation ignored by the majority-party leadership — but are rarely successful.

For a member of the House majority like Coffman to file a discharge petition was an exceedingly rare move.

{mosads}But Coffman told The Hill that he spoke with Ryan on Thursday and agreed to hold off on his discharge petition as lawmakers begin to consider a long-term legislative fix for undocumented immigrant children.

The Trump administration announced this week that it is ending the DACA program, with a six-month phaseout period to give Congress time to act.

Yet Coffman warned he would renew his push if lawmakers are unsuccessful in reaching a deal once the six-month phaseout period ends in March 2018.

“I said that I would pull back on that to see how [Ryan] would do. What he didn’t want is two efforts simultaneously that are going at the same time, his effort to try to get our bill to the floor, and my effort to try to push a discharge petition,” Coffman said in an interview just off the House floor.

“But if he couldn’t bring something to the floor, then I would push the discharge petition.”

A spokeswoman for Ryan didn’t return a request for comment.

Only three lawmakers have signed on to Coffman’s discharge petition so far: Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.), Adam Smith (Wash.) and Bobby Rush (Ill.), all of whom are Democrats. No fellow Republicans have endorsed Coffman’s move at this point.

Members of the House majority rarely endorse, let alone create, discharge petitions, given the potential to embarrass leadership.

Coffman noted that he is trying to gather co-sponsors for the underlying bill, titled the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act. So far it has 25 co-sponsors, including 12 Republicans.

Coffman told The Hill in an interview last week before the House returned from its August recess that he was “not asking for permission” from GOP leadership to file the discharge petition.

The last time a discharge petition succeeded was in 2015, when a bipartisan coalition worked to force a vote after House GOP leaders wouldn’t schedule a vote on legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

Even that was the first time a discharge petition had worked since 2002, when a petition was introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on campaign finance reform.

Coffman is one of 23 House Republicans who represent districts won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, making him one of Democrats’ top targets heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

His district is also about 20 percent Hispanic as a result of redistricting. Coffman has sought to establish a softer position on immigration in recent years by learning Spanish and endorsing legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants.

Before his district was redrawn to include more Hispanic constituents, Coffman co-sponsored a bill ending birthright citizenship and voted against the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act in 2010.

Jason Crow, Coffman’s Democratic challenger, seized on the decision to set aside the discharge petition.

“The shifting story around his so-called ‘BRIDGE Act’ reflects an unfortunate and all-too-familiar pattern with Congressman Mike Coffman — lots of words with little action, all in service of his own reelection,” Crow said in a statement.

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