House GOP warns: We’re no rubber stamp for Senate DACA fix
House Republicans are sending an early warning to their GOP colleagues in the Senate: We’re not a rubber stamp for any deal you cut with Democrats on immigration.
“It’s been crystal clear,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “Just because they accept something, doesn’t mean we will. And it certainly doesn’t mean the administration will.”
The comments arrived on Day Two of the government shutdown, as talks between party leaders have largely broken down and a bipartisan group of Senate moderates has stepped into the void in an attempt to break the impasse with a deal over the fate of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an immigration reform advocate in the midst of those talks, said Sunday that, while sticking points remain, he’s optimistic the discussions can yield an agreement before the 1 a.m. Monday vote scheduled in the Senate on a three-week extension of government funding — a proposal the Democrats are expected to block.
“I think there will be a breakthrough tonight,” Graham said. “If there’s going to be one, it’s going to be tonight.”
Not so fast, said House Republicans.
“No offense to anybody involved … but Lindsey Graham and [Sen.] Jeff Flake [R-Ariz.] don’t represent where a majority of the Republicans in the Senate are [on immigration], let alone here,” Cole said Sunday, leaving a gathering of House Republicans in the Capitol basement. “So how can they be the lead negotiators on that?
“I just don’t think that’s likely.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the head of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, is sending a similar message. He emphasized that Trump has insisted that any deal on DACA must also include provisions to strengthen border security, reduce family-based immigration and eliminate the diversity visa lottery. Meadows said he trusts the president to hold that line, regardless what the Senate moderates produce.
“The president has been very clear in articulating what it would take,” Meadows said.
Meadows also pushed back on reports that Trump might be considering a deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would combine the DACA protections with billions of dollars in border wall funding.
“That was never the deal,” he said. “The president has been very consistent.”
The debate over the fate of DACA recipients, immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, has been a political headache for Republican leaders. They say they’ll accept Trump’s challenge to codify the DACA protections, but have struggled to come up with a proposal that accomplishes that goal without exposing the fierce divisions within their conference on the issue.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had promised House conservatives before taking the gavel that he would not bring a vote on any immigration proposal that didn’t meet the so-called Hastert Rule, which says that any bill must have the support of the majority of the majority to get a vote.
More recently, Ryan has said he won’t vote on any immigration bill that lacks Trump’s support.
Many conservatives are pushing a Republican bill, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), combining a DACA fix with a reduction in legal immigration and a long list of tough enforcement provisions favored by immigration hawks. Yet it’s unclear if the proposal has the Republican support to pass the House — “We haven’t whipped the Goodlatte bill; we don’t know where we’re at,” Cole said — and it would almost certainly fail in the face of Democratic opposition in the Senate.
“We’ve been working steadily, building support very rapidly,” Goodlatte told The Hill on Sunday. He declined to put a number on that support.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a moderate immigration reformer, said ultimately GOP leaders will be forced to bring a vote on a DACA fix, whether it meets the standards of the Hastert Rule or not.
“I always love it around here. We’re all for the majority of the majority — until we’re not,” Dent, clad in a Philadelphia Eagles jacket, told reporters.
“At some point there’s going to be a bipartisan DREAM Act bill, or DACA bill, that’s gonna have to be voted on in the House — with or without a majority of the majority.
“We’re just gonna have to deal with it.”
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