Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on
© Greg Nash

Another House Republican has signed on to the discharge petition that would force a series of votes on immigration that GOP leaders are seeking to avoid, bringing the number of signatories to 204.

Rep. Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenHouse panel opens probe into Tom Reed over sexual misconduct allegations GOP Rep. Tom Reed accused of sexual misconduct Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips wins primary MORE's (R-Minn.) signature means the petitioners need just 14 more signers to force a series of votes on immigration legislation that would offer shelter to "Dreamers," immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

Paulsen, a top Democratic target in the midterm elections who represents a district Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Hillary Clinton: Casting doubt on 2020 election is 'doing Putin's work' Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE won in 2016, is the 21st Republican to sign the petition.

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Twenty-five GOP signatures are needed if every Democrat in the House backs the petition, meaning the petitioners may just need another four signatures to reach their goal.

GOP leaders have pressed lawmakers not to sign the discharge petition, which would allow a minority of Republicans working with Democrats to control the floor.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel Cheney: 'It is disgusting and despicable' to see Gosar 'lie' about Jan. 6 MORE (R-Calif.) has warned members of his conference it could have negative implications during the midterm election cycle.

Top Republicans have recently floated an alternative plan to hold a series of immigration votes on bills picked by House GOP leadership the week of June 17, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

Under the Queen of the Hill rule, the conservative-backed bill by Reps. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGOP lawmakers urge Biden to add sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin Key Republican: Putin meeting will be most 'important' and 'dangerous' of Biden trip MORE (R-Texas), the bipartisan USA Act, the Dream Act and a bill of Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNow we know why Biden was afraid of a joint presser with Putin Zaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power MORE’s (R-Wis.) choosing would come to the floor. The measure that receives the most votes over the 218 threshold would then be sent to the Senate.

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House GOP leadership has promised members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus a vote on the Goodlatte-McCaul legislation in June. Members of the caucus are hoping a stand-alone vote on the White House-backed measure would kill the discharge petition.

Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.), a leader on the discharge petiiton, wants a single rule to set up all the bills so that the Freedom Caucus can’t tank the rule for the moderate-backed bill spearheaded by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R-Texas) and Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarPelosi signals no further action against Omar Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Pelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement MORE (D-Calif.).

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show Trump endorsement shakes up GOP Senate primary in NC MORE (R-N.C.) called on leadership to do everything in their power to stop the discharge petition from moving forward, adding he believes bringing up the Goodlatte bill is the easiest way to derail moderates' efforts.

"When I voted against a rule, they threatened to take away all travel, they threatened to take away any NRCC contributions," he told reporters Monday evening, referring to the House Republicans' campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Most of those people that were on the discharge petition are much closer to leadership than members of the Freedom Caucus — so I don't see them voting against the rule."

Meadows said he wouldn't be supportive of bringing up a rule that also includes the legislation being worked on by Denham, arguing he doesn't know what the final product will look like.

"I think it's two separate votes. I mean, the truth of the matter is ... we'll vote on the Goodlatte bill as it was promised some seven months ago," he said. "Let's vote on that, and then if we know the parameters of the other bill with Mr. Denham or anybody else, I don't envision any bloc of votes voting against the rule from our side."

The North Carolina lawmaker said Republicans need to prove to the American people Goodlatte doesn't have the 218 votes needed to send his legislation to the upper chamber before looking at alternatives.

"I guess the question is if that's the only bus leaving the station, how many people actually vote for the Goodlatte bill?" he asked. "And I can tell you there are discussions going on right now on how you modify the Goodlatte bill to get to 218."

Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.