House Democrats on Tuesday increased their pressure on GOP supporters of immigration reform to fight harder for a bill this year.
"We're calling out the members of the House … who have said they support immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship," Polis said on a press call. "We're saying, 'Do something about your support.' "
With November's elections inching ever-closer, the Democrats see the next few months as their last chance to overhaul the nation's immigration system this Congress. The Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill last summer, and a failure of the House to follow suit before January would be a huge set-back to reform advocates, who would be forced to start from scratch in both chambers in 2015.
The Democrats acknowledge they almost certainly won't attract enough Republicans to their discharge petition to force a vote. (The 191 members who have endorsed the petition – all Democrats – are well shy of the 218 needed to bring the bill to the floor). But the design is to generate local headlines and build enough public pressure that GOP leaders are left with no choice but to act.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) compared the current immigration push to that surrounding last year's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – another measure opposed by Republican leaders, who reluctantly brought it to the floor after months of attacks from Democrats and women's rights groups.
"It seemed we were at loggerheads and we were going nowhere with that … but then the pressure from around the nation became too enormous," Chu said. "The pressure from around the nation [on immigration reform] has to be just as enormous."
Chu said that simple demographics make immigration reform a bipartisan issue, and there are "a significant number of Republicans that know that they have to pay attention to their district."
"We have this variety of viewpoints within the Republican Party," she said. "And [Majority Whip] Kevin McCarthy has to consider all of them, he has to consider the survival of the Republican Party."
The Democrats are targeting 30 Republicans who have voiced some degree of support for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 12 million immigrants estimated to be living in the country illegally.
The Republican targets are Reps. Don YoungDon YoungThe Hill's Whip List: 12 GOP no votes on new ObamaCare bill Report: Ryan pleaded on one knee for ObamaCare repeal vote House votes to make it easier to fire VA employees for misconduct MORE (Alaska), Chris StewartChris StewartTransgender candidate Misty Snow announces House bid in Utah GOP rep faces jeers, protests at Utah town hall Intel leaders express regret over Russian hacking response MORE (Utah), Sean DuffySean DuffyAllow peaceful, law-abiding working immigrants out of the shadows GOP rep: Dems have done nothing to fix ObamaCare CNN host, GOP rep spar over Trump wiretap talk MORE (Wis.), Spencer BachusSpencer BachusBusiness groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Trump picks critic of Ex-Im Bank to lead it Spencer Bachus: True leadership MORE (Ala.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Paul RyanPaul RyanPoll: Trump voters have positive opinion of president Overnight Regulation: Senators call for 'cost-effective' regs | FCC chief unveils plans to roll back net neutrality Overnight Tech: FCC chief unveils plan for net neutrality rollback | Tech on Trump's sweeping tax plan | Cruz looks to boost space industry MORE (Wis.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Mark AmodeiMark AmodeiThe Hill's Whip List: 12 GOP no votes on new ObamaCare bill Vulnerable GOP senator faces rancorous town hall Vulnerable GOP senator: 'No problems' with Planned Parenthood funding MORE (Nev.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzChaffetz to have surgery, will miss several weeks in Washington Overnight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins Oversight Dems want vote on Trump tax return bill MORE (Utah), Joe Heck (Nev.), Peter King (N.Y.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Sam JohnsonSam JohnsonRyan transfers record M to House GOP's campaign arm in March Job creators need relief: Reform small-business healthcare End the ban on physician-owned hospitals MORE (Texas), John Carter (Texas), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Aaron Schock (Ill.), Steve Pearce (N.M.), Tim GriffinTim GriffinFlynn discloses lobbying that may have helped Turkey Tea Party class reassesses record Huckabee's daughter to run '16 campaign MORE (Ark.), Justin AmashJustin AmashThe Hill's Whip List: 12 GOP no votes on new ObamaCare bill Oversight Dems want vote on Trump tax return bill Greens take climate fight to GOP town halls MORE (Mich.), Vance McAllister (La.) and Renee Ellmers (N.C.).
Although the Senate bill passed with broad bipartisan support, Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) has refused to bring it to the floor, saying he prefers a piecemeal approach to one sweeping bill.
Even that strategy remains uncertain, however, as a number of conservative Republicans are opposed to passing any related proposal through the House, for fear it would inherit provisions they oppose – notably the citizenship language – in a conference with the Senate bill. With that in mind, it's unclear if even piecemeal bills popular with Republicans will get a floor vote ahead of the elections.
In the face of that uncertainty, a number of immigrant rights advocates on and off Capitol Hill have pressured President Obama to take the issue into his own hands, particularly when it comes to deportations. In 2012, Obama had adopted a program allowing qualified illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to remain and work legally, and advocates have pushed him to expand that initiative to more immigrants ever since.
Rep. Joe GarciaJoe GarciaFreshman Curbelo wins reelection in Fla. LGBT Republican groups campaigning for Curbelo in Fla. House Democrats amplify anti-Trump strategy MORE (D-Fla.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he's spoken this month on that topic with both Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. If the House doesn't move legislation soon, Garcia predicted, the administration will step in.
"This is our last effort [this year] to do this as a legislative fix," Garcia said. "I, like a lot of my colleagues, obviously want [Obama] to act if nothing is done [in Congress]. But let there be no excuse from the Republicans that they are creating the need for the president to act if they do not act."