Discharge petition efforts intensify as leadership seeks unity
A cadre of House Republicans seeking to force a floor vote on immigration bills are vying for support, despite talks with leadership to join forces on a consensus bill.
Following a meeting with House GOP leadership and top conservatives Wednesday, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) said he wants to see a deal on immigration by the end of the week and will push for signatures on his discharge petition — a measure to get a floor vote circumventing leadership.
Leadership and members of the House Freedom Caucus have come out strongly against the discharge petition — introduced by Curbelo earlier this month — arguing it places the power in Democrats’ hands. The measure would force votes on four immigration proposals, with the measure that receives the most of 218 votes being sent to the upper chamber.
Moderates have been vocal about their frustrations over Congress’s lack of action on finding a solution for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, having garnered 21 GOP signatures to bypass leadership and bring legislation to the floor.
“I think it’s important to have a fairly specific agreement by the end of this week,” Curbelo told reporters, adding that bringing an unpassable bill to the floor isn’t on the table for moderates. “Our goal here is to make law, all of you here know I’m not into messaging votes — that’s not why I work hard here to get elected.
With an end-of-week deadline, Curbelo said he hopes to put the pressure on lawmakers.
If successful, the discharge petition would force a vote on a proposal by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), which would allow the House to vote on four immigration bills under what’s known as a Queen of the Hill rule.
Republican leadership requested moderates hold off on whipping additional members to sign the petition until after June 7 to provide additional time to negotiate, but proponents of the move have no intention of halting their efforts, a GOP aide with knowledge of the negotiations told The Hill.
Denham has been active in promoting his proposal and the now-bipartisan discharge petition that, so far, has garnered 205 signatures.
“Denham is not slowing back efforts to get signatures,” said Jessica McFaul, a spokeswoman for Denham.
Members from all factions of the conference that attended the meeting said significant progress has been made. Still, details of a potential agreement have yet to emerge before lawmakers fly out for a one-week recess on Thursday afternoon.
“We want to make sure the borders are secure … I think if you talked to anybody that was in there [the meeting] they all felt it was very productive,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday. “That is a much better way to solve the broken system than doing a discharge petition. I think we’re continuing to make progress and we have an opportunity here.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has scheduled a members-only conference meeting on immigration for June 7.
“There may be one or two [meetings] tomorrow, but I would say that we absolutely have the signatures. We’re bargaining in good faith here, were given an opportunity to come to an agreement and if they don’t, we’re going to do what we need to do,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) told reporters. “But we’re going to give them the opportunity, leadership and all sides of our party to come to a good agreement.”
Katko said they have commitments from more than the 25 GOP members to force the votes, if needed.
Republican leadership is under pressure from the conservative Freedom Caucus to block the discharge petition and deliver an immigration proposal that doesn’t include a special pathway to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors.
“We would allow a normal pathway to citizenship, but not a special pathway to citizenship,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). “It just means that they shouldn’t get a special way to become a citizen by virtue of the fact that they came here illegally.”
That proposal crosses a red line for most Democrats and several Republicans who have backed granting relief to Dreamers.
“We want an opportunity to pass a bill that can be signed by the president and that bill will include multiple priorities. Not the only one that’s important to me, but the most important is a permanent solution for young immigrants brought to this country as children,” Curbelo said.