Immigration compromise underlines right’s clout

Immigration compromise underlines right’s clout
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHead of top hedge fund association to step down Romney knocks Trump over McCain criticism Paul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation MORE (R-Wis.) and his leadership team effectively crushed a rebellion by Republican centrists this week by moving to the right and siding with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, sending an unmistakable signal of where the center of power in the conference lies.

Freedom Caucus members had been the loudest opponents of the centrists’ discharge petition aimed at forcing votes on immigration, and were demanding a vote on their own hard-line immigration measure while insisting that any compromise bill be pulled to the right.

Ryan, who is retiring after this year, was desperate to stave off the petition, which would have triggered a freewheeling public debate on four immigration bills just months before the November midterm elections. GOP leaders facilitated negotiations between the warring factions in their conference in the hopes of hammering out an alternative agreement.

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In the end, conservatives appear to have gotten more of what they wanted — a vote next week on a conservative bill from Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) as well as a vote on a compromise measure that is still being drafted with input from both conservatives and moderates.

Conservatives were quick to take a victory lap Wednesday.

“Think about it. Right now, we’re not going to have a discharge petition, which means the two bills that we know were bad for the country are not even going to get voted on,” Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan, Meadows backed by new ads from pro-Trump group: report Jordan jokes that sport coats inhibit him during heated hearings Attorney previously in contact with Cohen pushes back on pardon narrative to CNN MORE (R-Ohio), a Freedom Caucus leader, told reporters.

“And the bill we like is going to get voted on, and the bill that is a modified Goodlatte bill is going to get voted on as well,” he continued. “Someone tell me why that’s not a better outcome than the road we were headed down.”

Some centrists lamented that GOP leaders had shifted their focus to a strictly Republican process after they had recently vowed to pursue a bipartisan solution for recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE canceled last year.

“I just hate the straight-line party stuff,” said Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe importance of moderate voters Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (R-Pa.), who has endorsed the discharge petition. “These are human lives on the line here, and we’ve got to get it right.”

Fitzpatrick is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan “Dreamer” proposal sponsored by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Hillicon Valley: US threatens to hold intel from Germany over Huawei | GOP senator targets FTC over privacy | Bipartisan bill would beef up 'internet of things' security | Privacy groups seize on suspended NSA program | Tesla makes U-turn MORE (R-Texas) and Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarLeft flexes muscle in immigration talks Immigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security Lawmakers haggling over border dollars much lower than Trump's demand MORE (D-Calif.), one of the four bills that would have gotten a vote if the discharge petition received two more signatures to hit the magic number of 218.

That immigration proposal, Fitzpatrick said, “strikes the right balance.”

The discharge petition also would have forced votes on Goodlatte’s bill and a more liberal measure favored by Democrats known as the Dream Act.

Instead, the compromise GOP package that is being assembled will stick to the four pillars outlined by the Trump administration: fixing DACA, securing the border, ending the diversity visa lottery program and limiting family-based migration.

“It’s not my ideal place to be. My ideal option would be a bipartisan bill in the House,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartFlorida lawmakers pitch bipartisan Venezuela amendment for Dream Act House Dems reintroduce the Dream Act Trump to allow lawsuits to proceed against Cuban property seizures MORE (R-Fla.). “But it’s the cards that we were dealt, and we’re trying to make good use of these cards.”

Leaders of the discharge petition insist they did not get rolled in the process and got what they wanted all along — action on DACA, an issue that was all but dead before the rebellious centrists launched their petition last month to circumvent leadership and force a series of immigration votes.

“We’ve worked in good faith to provide a permanent fix for Dreamers, and … I think we’re going to nail down some final negotiations on this,” Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race MORE (R-Calif.), a leading supporter of the discharge petition, said Wednesday. “I feel very confident that we’ve accomplished what we set out to.”

But moderates, who were just two signatures short on the discharge petition, had little choice but to accept the two-vote immigration strategy laid out by Ryan after losing much of their leverage in the fight.

And while GOP leaders say the compromise measure has the best shot at becoming law, it’s still uncertain whether the final proposal can get 218 Republican votes — a feat that has long eluded the party.

Conservatives promised leadership that they would support the procedural rule allowing both immigration bills to come to the House floor, but they did not agree to back the underlying compromise bill.

“I’m not going to ask any member to back a bill they haven’t seen yet,” Ryan told reporters during his weekly news conference on Wednesday. “But we have a process that all of our members agreed to that brings these bills to the floor.”

Many conservatives have balked at the idea of providing a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and may be reluctant to get on board with the compromise plan.

That could leave moderates facing tough reelection races empty-handed next week when the House holds its immigration votes. If that happens, moderates could relaunch their discharge petition effort, having one more shot to force votes on the issue on July 23. But the discharge route will only get tougher in the weeks ahead.

Conservatives, who had urged Ryan to do everything in his power to stop the petition, are looking forward to finally getting a vote on the Goodlatte bill, something the Freedom Caucus has been demanding for months. They have also been involved in negotiations to bolster the moderates’ compromise bill.

After huddling late Tuesday night to weigh their options, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsJordan, Meadows backed by new ads from pro-Trump group: report Trump keeps tight grip on GOP Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons MORE (R-N.C.) called Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests MORE (R-Calif.) to lay out their terms for backing an agreement: two separate rules allowing debate on the two immigration bills. Leadership accepted, and Ryan’s announcement on next week’s votes came shortly after.

Lawmakers point out that the arrangement allows everyone to say they got something in the deal: Ryan and his team quashed the discharge petition, conservatives get a vote on the Goodlatte measure and moderates will see long-awaited floor action on DACA.

“It speaks well of everybody on both sides. They negotiated in good faith,” Meadows told reporters. “This is not a ‘spike the football in the end zone’ time frame for the Freedom Caucus.”