Farm bill revolt could fuel Dreamer push

Republican immigration reformers said Friday’s defeat of the GOP farm bill will generate more support for the upstart effort to force House action on "Dreamer" legislation.

Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.), a leading voice in the effort to revive the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, said the conservatives who opposed the farm bill essentially reneged on an agreement with GOP leaders to lend their farm bill support in return for promised action next month on a conservative immigration proposal.

Twenty-nine Republicans opposed the GOP agriculture proposal Friday morning — many of them members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — sinking the bill and delivering an embarrassing defeat to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer MORE (R-Wis.) and his leadership team.

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The bill’s failure, some Republicans predicted, will cause a backlash against the Freedom Caucus agitators by compelling more GOP lawmakers to endorse a procedural gambit, known as a discharge petition, that would force floor votes on four separate DACA bills against the wishes of Republican leaders. 

The Freedom Caucus opposes the discharge petition and has sought ways to sink it.

Denham said caucus members' actions on Friday will instead make his lobbying effort easier. 

“Given the breaking of the agreement that was made today, you’re going to see more Republicans that are frustrated and angry enough to sign on to something that they’ve never signed on to before,” Denham said after the farm bill failed.

Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossBiden ramps up pressure on Iran as it grapples with protests Biden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs MORE (R-Fla.), a senior member of the GOP whip team, agreed.

He said Republican leaders had, in fact, delivered a warning to recalcitrant lawmakers in the lead up to Friday’s vote: Oppose the farm bill, they said, and the discharge petition will gain steam.

“Don’t be surprised if there’s a discharge petition that comes out as a result of this, because I think there are a lot of members on my side of the aisle concerned that they are not relevant anymore,” a visibly frustrated Ross said after the vote. 

“I think you’re going to see some members on the Republican side who are more inclined to do a discharge petition in order to at least get something done.”

Such an inclination was not on display Friday.

While scores of Democrats used the farm-bill vote as an opportunity to endorse the DACA discharge petition, no new Republicans signed on.

But Denham noted that a number of lawmakers were not in Washington during Friday’s vote and predicted that more will endorse his petition when Congress returns next week.

“We are continuing to add more signatures,” he said.

The petition requires a House majority — 218 signatures — to force floor action. Given the current House makeup, that means Denham and his supporters need at least 25 Republicans to buck leadership, assuming every Democrat is on board. As of Friday afternoon, 20 Republicans had done so.

Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDirect air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Biden's corporate tax hike is bad for growth — try a carbon tax instead Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (R-Fla.), who sponsored the discharge petition that would force votes on Denham’s resolution, said two Republicans approached him on Thursday to say they’re ready to endorse the petition, though he did not know when they would do so. 

At least two House Democrats are withholding their support for the discharge petition, citing concerns that the effort will lead to new construction of President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE’s proposed border wall.

Curbelo said he’s hoping those Democratic holdouts will change course and sign the petition, but predicted their support ultimately won’t be necessary to reach the 218 mark.

“We’re not too worried about that, because we think we’ll get more than 25 [Republicans],” Curbelo said. 

The immigration and agriculture issues have become entwined in recent weeks, after the leaders of the Freedom Caucus — notably Chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsMeadows says Trump World looking to 'move forward in a real way' Trump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel Jordan58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll Kinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy Jordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 MORE (R-Ohio) — threatened to withhold their support for the farm bill unless Ryan solidified a vote on a conservative immigration proposal, sponsored by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.).

Although the Goodlatte bill lacks the support to pass the House, conservatives want an opportunity to vote on it, perhaps with amendments. The legislation adopts a hard-line approach to immigration reform, boosting interior enforcement and reducing even legal immigration. 

“We need to figure out whether we can [pass] Goodlatte as is, or amend it,” Meadows said Thursday. “If that doesn’t work than we know that we have to go with some other option.” 

The two groups met Thursday night in Ryan’s office in the Capitol, where GOP leaders offered the conservatives a vote on the Goodlatte bill in June. The offer didn’t satisfy some members of the group, however, who wanted to vote on the immigration bill before moving to the agriculture package. 

“It was not fully clear,” Meadows said of the leadership offer.

That argument hasn’t appeased Denham, who said he’s agitated with fellow Republicans who “asked for a concession, got the concession, and then took down [the farm bill] anyways.” 

“They had asked for a date certain [to consider the Goodlatte bill], and they gave a date certain. … It was good enough until about 10 minutes before the vote,” Denham said, adding that the agreement is now off. 

“If you break an agreement I assume you no longer get what you agreed to. They had gotten their vote that they had asked for, and we gave them a date. Now they’ve changed their minds. So I would expect that agreement to be null and void, at this point.”

Melanie Zanona contributed.