GOP seeks immigration deal within next 24 hours

Key GOP lawmakers seeking to craft a way forward on immigration say their goal is to come up with a deal within the next 24 hours that would end a revolt by Republican centrists demanding votes on legislation to protect "Dreamers."

There were signs Thursday that the sides were edging closer to a deal, though it was not clear if they could actually put together a bill that can pass the House.

“We have a goal of coming together with the makeup of a bill within 24 hours,” said Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine MORE (R-Calif.), who is leading the effort to force immigration votes on the floor with a discharge petition.

“And we will continue to work on how you craft a bill and how you put together votes, not only in the next 24 hours, but beyond that.”

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Denham said he has been having productive conversations with both GOP leaders and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump The Hill Interview: Sanford says Trump GOP doing 'serious brand destruction' GOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan MORE (R-N.C.), who opposes the discharge petition effort, over the past several days. They have been trying to come up with immigration parameters that moderate Republicans, conservatives and even some Democrats could support.

“I am probably having more meetings with Mark Meadows right now that I am with leadership,” Denham said. “We’re having good ongoing discussions.”

While far from finalized, one idea under consideration would involve putting a hard-line immigration bill from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) on the House floor, knowing that it would likely fail. The bill is favored by House conservatives who oppose the discharge petition effort.

The second part of the agreement would be voting on a second, new piece of immigration legislation that can get 218 votes — the parameters of which are still being determined.

But reaching a deal on that second bill is likely to be difficult.

“We’re negotiating a second bill that would have 218 votes in the House,” Denham said. “I’ve never had a problem with the Goodlatte bill coming up to the floor. I don’t think it has the votes, but then again, I think everyone should be held accountable for their votes.”

Republicans have sought but failed to reach a deal on immigration that would satisfy all sides for much of the year. Frustration among centrists led to the discharge petition, a remarkable move from rank-and-file members since it would force the hands of their leaders and give Democrats leverage in terms of what comes to the floor.

The use of the discharge petition has angered some conservatives, who say it is wrong for members of their party to essentially work with Democrats.

But those behind it argue they have little choice since they see votes on immigration to protect Dreamers — people who came to the United States illegally as children and who are losing protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE is winding down — as crucial to their own hopes in this fall’s midterm elections.

Denham and several other signatories on the petition are among the lawmakers seen as the most vulnerable this fall.

Denham said Thursday that he plans to push ahead with the discharge petition, which so far has 20 Republican signatures. They just need five more Republican signatures to force the immigration votes if all 193 Democrats join the effort.

Denham said he expects more lawmakers to sign on during the next vote series.

On Thursday, there were signs that the various sides might be making progress. 

Meadows was spotted shaking hands with House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes MORE (R-La.) on the House floor on Thursday. He met with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.) earlier in the day, and said GOP leaders presented him with some potential parameters for an immigration measure. Meadows said he then offered them a counterargument.

The Freedom Caucus leader also said that GOP leaders agreed to put the Goodlatte bill on the floor — which could be key to unlocking the group’s support for a partisan GOP farm bill that the House is voting on Friday.

But Meadows said he still needs more details, such as the timing of the Goodlatte floor vote and what the second immigration bill would look like before he agrees to back any deal. He is planning to present the potential options to the rest of the Freedom Caucus on Thursday afternoon.

Still, he expressed optimism that a broad deal could be reached in the next 24 hours.

“I think that we can get the parameters for some type of immigration bill within the next 24 hours,” Meadows told reporters, adding that the sides are closer than suggested by headlines.

After huddling Thursday, Meadows said the "vast majority" of Freedom Caucus members want to vote on the Goodlatte bill before they consider the farm bill. 

The group, which did not take a formal position on the issue, called Scalise during their meeting to let him know their offer.
 
"It is a leverage point," Meadows said.
 
-Scott Wong contributed