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 RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests 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 CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (R-Fla.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonDems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers MORE (R-Mich.) and Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamTrump attacks Dems on farm bill House Republicans push for vote on Violence Against Women Act Steyer group launching 0,000 digital ad campaign targeting millennials 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 MeadowsRepublicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Graham to renew call for second special counsel MORE (R-N.C.), along with Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHillicon Valley: Trump cyber strategy lets US go on offense | AT&T urges court to let Time Warner merger stand | Conservatives want wife of DOJ official to testify | Facebook, nonprofits team up to fight fake news | DC camera hacker pleads guilty FBI memos detail ‘partisan axes,’ secret conflicts behind the Russia election meddling assessment Republicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr MORE (R-Ohio) and Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryCook Political Report moves 4 GOP seats to 'toss-up' category Conservative group pledges .5 million for 12 House GOP candidates Lawmaker lists fake Sacha Baron Cohen award on campaign site 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.”