GOP leaders huddle with discharge petition backers, opponents

GOP leaders huddle with discharge petition backers, opponents
© Greg Nash

House GOP leadership called separate meetings Wednesday evening with both the backers and opponents of an effort to force immigration votes on the House floor, after the effort gained new momentum earlier in the day.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.) and his top four lieutenants, who are facing pressure from within their own ranks to bring immigration legislation to the floor, first huddled with the centrist Republicans leading a discharge petition that would set up a series of floor votes on immigration bills.

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Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloNation's fraught politics leads to fear, scars and exits Direct air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Biden's corporate tax hike is bad for growth — try a carbon tax instead MORE (R-Fla.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because many Republicans 'have remained silent' Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (R-Mich.) and Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.) said GOP leaders emphasized their commitment to bringing immigration legislation to the floor and even kicked around some broad ideas for a potential proposal.

"You know, we had a long discussion about the policy and leadership is looking to find a path forward, so it was a productive conversation,” Denham told reporters after the meeting in Ryan’s office suite. “But any path forward is going to require them talking to everyone else in our conference, too.”

The discharge petition picked up two new Republican signatures on Wednesday, despite GOP leaders pleading with rank-and-file members earlier in the day to stand down. Now, just five more Republican signatures are needed to force the immigration votes if all 193 Democrats join the effort.

“The meeting was prompted when we got to number 20 today,” Upton said. “They know we’re continuing to make upward progress.”

Curbelo described the meeting as “productive” and “moving in the right direction,” though he cautioned they aren’t on the edge of a deal yet. He also stressed that they aren't backing down on their discharge petition.

“Clearly we have had a positive impact on leadership and on this institution, because now this issue is being taken seriously,” Curbelo told reporters outside of Ryan’s office. “We have our plan, we’re sticking to it, but we’re willing to see what theirs looks like.”

GOP leaders aren’t just facing pressure from the party’s center over the hot-button issue.

Conservative hard-liners, who vehemently oppose the discharge petition, are pressing Ryan to allow a stand-alone vote on one of the conservative immigration measures included in the discharge petition — a move they say would effectively derail the entire discharge petition for procedural reasons.

Some Freedom Caucus members said they would be willing to back an endangered GOP farm bill if Ryan agrees to put the stand-alone bill on the floor in a bid to kill the discharge petition.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsGraham found Trump election fraud arguments suitable for 'third grade': Woodward book Allies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan MORE (R-N.C.), along with Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanAllies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments MORE (R-Ohio) and Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryWatchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments Jan. 6 panel seeks records of those involved in 'Stop the Steal' rally Jan. 6 panel to ask for preservation of phone records of GOP lawmakers who participated in Trump rally: report MORE (R-Pa.), met with Ryan and his team Wednesday evening.

Meadows has said enough of his members are undecided on the farm bill that it could make the difference of whether the measure passes or not.

“It doesn’t seem like an ag bill can move until we get this immigration issue worked out satisfactorily,” Perry said after meeting with Ryan. “That hasn’t been worked out yet.”

Meadows applauded leadership for keeping conservative members in the loop while attempting to find a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which protected immigrants who came to U.S. illegally as children from deportation — that satisfies all factions of the conference, but noted nothing conclusive came of the Wednesday evening meeting.

“I mean, I think the next step is figuring out what the next step is,” he said.

Leadership said they’ll continue discussions with members as they try to figure out a solution.

“I've always believed discharge petitions are not a way to govern,” McCarthy told The Hill. “So people have a difference in opinions, so you bring people together, start talking and solve the problem — that's what we're doing.”