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Freedom Caucus weighs option to derail forced vote on immigration

Freedom Caucus weighs option to derail forced vote on immigration
© Greg Nash

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Fusion GPS co-founder will invoke 'constitutional rights not to testify': lawyers House panels postpone meeting with Rosenstein MORE (R-N.C.) on Tuesday floated using the farm bill as leverage in order to derail an effort by Republicans to force a vote on immigration.

Meadows said the conservative group might push for a vote on an immigration bill introduced in January by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteHouse Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein Fusion GPS co-founder will invoke 'constitutional rights not to testify': lawyers House GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder MORE (R-Va.) in exchange for support on the farm bill, which has failed to gain traction in the House. The farm bill is a top priority for retiring House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Wis.) due to its language on welfare reform.

House GOP leadership had previously promised Meadows a vote on the Goodlatte immigration bill in exchange for the caucus's support on a must-pass government funding bill.

"You know we had discussions tonight about really encouraging our leadership to just stay true to the promise that they made during the CR votes," he told reporters Tuesday, referring to the continuing resolution. "If you recall there was a CR where they said they would give us a vote on Goodlatte. And so since we're whipping the farm bill very hard for a vote this week, we believe that it's probably time to call the question on the Goodlatte bill as well."

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Eighteen House Republicans recently signed on to a discharge petition — introduced by Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDems see blue 'tsunami' in House as Senate path narrows GOP spokeswoman says Republicans will lose House seats in midterms Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems MORE (R-Fla.) last week — that would force votes on four immigration proposals. The one that receives the most votes over 218 would then be sent to the upper chamber, in what is known as a “Queen of the Hill” rule.

Meadows, who is not on board with the discharge petition, said bringing the Goodlatte bill to the floor would hinder the timing of the Queen of the Hill rule. Parliamentary procedure dictates that a discharge petition considered under a special rule in the House Rules Committee must sit for seven days and can only be voted on during the second or fourth Monday of the month.

"When you have a rule it ripens, it's attached to a certain bill, so if you bring that bill up you can only consider it once," Meadows said. "So in doing that, the rule that's attached now, the Queen of the Hill rule, would have to find another vehicle to be attached to in order to be effective. And so the clock would start all over again."

Meadows said he'd like to see a vote on the measure sometime this week or next, suggesting the group would have the numbers to derail the farm bill if necessary.

"The only leverage would be if it moved a significant number of ‘yes’ votes, and that's what we are checking with our members to do," he said.

House Republican leadership has also been highly critical of the use of discharge petitions, arguing it places the power in the hands of the minority party. Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDemocrats in swing districts advised to avoid talking about immigration The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia McCarthy brother-in-law under scrutiny for earning federal contracts based on Native American identity claim MORE (R-Calif.) met with President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE at the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss a path forward on immigration that can pass both chambers.

Critics of the immigration discharge petition have suggested Ryan could potentially block votes on Mondays as a way to thwart the effort. Curbelo blasted the idea, saying they should have a free and open debate on the topic.

"That's pure cowardice. Why are these people scared of their own bill? This process guarantees them a vote. Are they afraid to have a vote on their own bill? Are they worried they'll be embarrassed?" he said Tuesday. "So now people are suggesting using the rules to suppress members and to prevent debate in the House? That sounds like a strategy that's motivated by fear and cowardice. Let's have the debate, let's bring the Goodlatte bill. Maybe they can get it passed, who knows?"

Rafael Bernal contributed.