House Republicans wrestle over immigration deal

House Republicans wrestle over immigration deal
© Greg Nash

House Republican leaders say they are making progress on a compromise immigration bill that they hope will be able to get 218 votes and quell an internal GOP rebellion over the issue.

While the bill is far from finalized, Republican leaders plan to pitch some of the ideas to rank-and-file members and get feedback during a two-hour conference meeting in the Capitol on Thursday.

A group of centrist and conservative lawmakers that has been closely involved in the negotiations is scheduled to meet with leadership again on Wednesday on the eve of the full conference meeting.

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“We’ve made good progress. We talked a lot over the weekend," Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyTim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate McCarthy knocks Pelosi, mask mandate: 'This House has broken the country's trust' GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday evening while discussing a possible compromise bill.

Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublican governors revolt against CDC mask guidance House to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance What you need to know about the new COVID-19 surge MORE (R-La.) told The Hill that GOP leaders are still trying to craft a deal that would stick to the four pillars outlined by the Trump administration earlier this year: providing a solution for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, securing the border, limiting family-based migration and ending the diversity visa lottery program.

Crafting an immigration bill that can appease both the conservative and moderate wings of the GOP conference has eluded the party for years, and some members remain openly skeptical that leadership can produce legislation capable of winning the support of a majority of the House and Trump.

“I don’t see how we do 218 Republicans,” retiring Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs Balancing act: Biden must redefine the US-Saudi relationship MORE (R-Fla.) told The Hill. “I’d love to see it, but I’m just being realistic.”

Ross has held off on signing a discharge petition being pushed by a number of moderate lawmakers that would force a series of contentious immigration votes on the House floor, though the Florida Republican has expressed openness to the idea.

The thorniest question facing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) and his top lieutenants is what protections should be extended to so-called Dreamers — immigrants who came to the country illegally as children — and whether they should be granted a path to citizenship.

“That’s been one of the most complicated parts,” Scalise acknowledged. “I think there’s a way to get there, but we’re working to do it.”

Over the weekend, one idea that was floated to key lawmakers involved in the negotiations was granting DACA recipients a green card, according to a Republican aide familiar with the discussions.

But if they are restricted from being able to use the green card to apply for citizenship, that could be a tough sell among moderate Republicans who have been demanding action on DACA.

“Would there be an opportunity toward a path to citizenship? That’s among the questions I would ask [on Thursday],” Rep. Leonard LanceLeonard LanceKean Jr. to run against Malinowski: report Thomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Gun debate to shape 2020 races MORE (R-N.J.) told The Hill.

Thursday’s meeting in the Capitol, which was scheduled in an effort to reach a partywide consensus on immigration, could represent a pivotal movement in the debate.

If no agreement emerges, more Republicans may sign the discharge petition. Just three more signatures are needed to hit the magic number of 218 and trigger a freewheeling immigration debate just months before the November midterm elections — a scenario GOP leaders are desperate to avoid.

Leadership has floated an alternative plan that would allow controlled votes on a moderate immigration bill and another measure favored by conservatives during the third week of June. But there have been unresolved questions about whether competing factions would block each other’s legislation from coming to the House floor.

Ryan and his team have signaled they are still hopeful they can strike an agreement on a new piece of immigration legislation that appeases their restive conference.

Meanwhile, some conservatives say they won’t support anything less than the measure from House Judiciary Committee Chairman 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.), which includes a basket of conservative priorities beyond just the four immigration pillars outlined by the White House.

“You’re going to have this problem on steroids if you pass a weak bill,” House Freedom Caucus Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) told The Hill.

— Juliegrace Brufke contributed