Pelosi: Discharge petition won't promote Trump's wall

Pelosi: Discharge petition won't promote Trump's wall
© Greg Nash

Seeking to unify Democrats around the immigration debate, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan Photos of the Week: Climate protests, Blue Origin and a koala MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday that forcing votes to protect "Dreamers" is no rubber stamp for funding President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE’s U.S.–Mexico border wall.

A pair of Texas Democrats from border districts — Reps. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats stare down 'hell' week Don't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery WHIP LIST: How House Democrats, Republicans say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE and Vicente González — are withholding their support for a Republican procedural gambit, known as a discharge petition, designed to compel votes on four bills rescuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed certain immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children to work and go to school.

The holdouts are concerned that the petition — which would launch a “Queen of the Hill” process pitting the four DACA bills against each other — would lead to the adoption of legislation that would ultimately fund new border wall construction.

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Their opposition, if it persists, would force GOP immigration reformers to find more Republicans willing to endorse the petition. That goal is a tall order, since signing on requires bucking the wishes of the party brass.

The bill widely viewed as the most popular of the four — a proposal sponsored by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R-Texas) and Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator MORE (D-Calif.) — does not explicitly fund new wall construction. But some Democrats say the $25 billion it includes for border security could ultimately lead to such construction.

“Upon reviewing the legislation, we have determined that while the measure may not overtly direct the construction of new miles of physical wall in furtherance of the President’s proposal, it could easily be interpreted as doing so,” Vela wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter, which he and Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump Jan. 6 panel to pursue criminal contempt referral for Bannon MORE (D-Miss.) sent to fellow Democrats in February.

Thompson is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Pelosi this week is disputing that interpretation, promoting the Hurd-Aguilar bill as a viable bipartisan compromise to protect the Dreamers — without new wall construction. She predicted that virtually every Democrat will endorse the discharge petition, and suggested the holdouts simply need “clarification” of what the Hurd-Aguilar bill would do.

“I think we have 99 percent of our members to be signing on. And we’ll have conversations with the others about what the equities are,” Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

“I think there is some clarification that is needed about what actually is in the bill. They’re saying it’s a wall, and it’s not a wall.”

Pelosi said she’s confident that, if the Republicans win enough signatures, Democrats would take the petition across the finish line.

“The issue is getting the Republican signatures on the bill,” she said.

The Queen of the Hill resolution, sponsored by Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.), would force floor votes on four separate DACA bills: the Hurd-Aguilar legislation; the Dream Act, which is favored by liberals; a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe job of shielding journalists is not finished Bottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden MORE (R-Va.), which is favored by conservatives; and a yet-unspecified proposal to be chosen by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.).

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The discharge petition, sponsored by Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloLawmakers laud diversity gains in Congress Nation's fraught politics leads to fear, scars and exits Direct air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy MORE (R-Fla.), needs 25 Republican signatures to reach 218, assuming all Democrats eventually sign on. Twenty Republicans have endorsed it so far, but Ryan and other GOP leaders are urging others to refrain from doing so, warning that the strategy empowers the minority Democrats.

Republican leaders huddled Wednesday evening in Ryan’s office with centrist immigration reformers, including Curbelo and Denham, and then with a separate group of hard-line conservatives immediately afterward. The conservatives oppose the discharge petition and are seeking procedural ways to sink it.

Ryan is urging patience, saying he wants to come up with a bipartisan DACA bill that can pass both chambers and win the signature of Trump, who has demanded billions of dollars in new border wall funding.

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerFeehery: Build back bipartisan Bottom line On The Money — Presented by NRHC — Breaking down the sluggish September jobs report MORE (D-Md.), the minority whip, said this week that Democratic leaders are open to accepting new wall funding as part of a compromise to protect the Dreamers.

Though not a new position — many Democrats had voted for more than $1 billion for new border security as part of the March omnibus package — it drew an outcry from Vela, who has vowed in the past that “under no circumstances will I vote for a bill that provides a penny for border wall funding.”

Pelosi said she hasn’t been in talks with Ryan or other GOP leaders about the specifics of a bipartisan deal to rescue DACA, saying “the beauty” of the current discharge-petition effort is that it’s being championed by rank-and-file Republicans.

“The Speaker should take control — maintain control — of the floor by just bringing the bill up,” she said.

“But that’s their own negotiation over there. I’m not involved in it.”