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 RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration 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 CurbeloTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor GOP rep will ‘probably’ support measure to back Paris climate pact MORE (R-Fla.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonBill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland House panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales MORE (R-Mich.) and Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race 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 Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-N.C.), along with Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power Cohen to testify before three congressional panels before going to prison MORE (R-Ohio) and Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryHouse Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 House passes bill expressing support for NATO McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader 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.”