Trump vows to stand with House GOP '1,000 percent' on immigration

Trump vows to stand with House GOP '1,000 percent' on immigration
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE urged House Republicans to get an immigration bill to his desk during a closed-door meeting Tuesday evening, vowing to stand with them “1,000 percent” as they attempt to pass legislation meeting his demands.

“I am behind you so much. We need a wall,” Trump told Republicans in the Capitol’s basement. “I am with you all the way. It’s humane; it’s smart; it’s inexpensive.”

“We are going to get this done. I’m with you. I love you people,” Trump added.

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The president endorsed both the GOP compromise bill and a hard-line measure 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.), according to a source inside the room. Lawmakers leaving the meeting said he did not indicate a preference.

The rare visit was a big boost to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Inside Biden's preparations for first debate MORE (R-Wis.) and his leadership team, who rushed to the House floor moments later to whip support for a GOP compromise immigration bill negotiated by centrist and conservative Republicans.

“I think it gives some members cover to vote for a bill that might give them a little bit of a gut check,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt MORE (R-N.C.). “I think there were people who were leaning no that are now leaning yes.”

GOP Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresOvernight Energy: GOP lawmaker parodies Green New Deal in new bill | House Republicans accuse Dems of ramming through climate bill | Park Service chief grilled over shutdown House Republicans accuse Dems of ramming through climate bill Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter MORE, a former conservative leader who represents the border state of Texas, told The Hill he thought Trump’s visit “helped the chance of passage” of an immigration bill.

And Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHouse passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' Here are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act MORE (R-Fla.), a moderate immigration reformer, summarized the GOP sentiment when he emphasized that Trump’s backing is crucial if Republicans are to have any chance of moving a bill through the House.

“Without his support, without his approval, there’s no shot of passing in the House and there’s no shot of it going anywhere,” said Diaz-Balart. “Now, I think we’re as close as we’ve been in a long time.”

But it wasn’t clear whether it was enough to win over skeptical Republicans who will need to ward off attacks from immigration hard-liners railing against the legislation as “amnesty.”

“I think there are going to be a lot of conservatives who are going to have a hard time voting for the compromise bill,” Freedom Caucus member Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonDemocrats push for tougher oversight on student loan market Democrats push for tougher oversight on student loan market 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill MORE (R-Ohio.) told The Hill after the meeting. “I feel like they left a lot of provisions out of the compromise.”

Trump’s visit came as the political crisis surrounding his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border engulfed his party. The policy has resulted in parents being separated from their children, and Republicans in the House and Senate have criticized it.

Senate Republicans voiced support Tuesday for moving a narrow piece of legislation that might only deal with the issue of families being separated.

GOP leaders had invited Trump to rally support for their compromise measure after he sparked confusion late last week by suggesting he wouldn’t sign the legislation.

His pep-rally speech to the Republicans on Tuesday frequently also strayed off-topic, touching on tax cuts, tariffs, North Korea and fighter jets. At one point, the president shocked rank-and-file Republicans by mocking Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-S.C.), a Trump critic, for losing his primary race last week after the president urged his defeat.

Sanford is a “nasty guy,” Trump said, according to a source in the room. The comments were met with some moans and grumbles.

“I was very upset. It was very unnecessary and as far as I’m concerned, it was very rude,” said Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesGOP women's super PAC blasts 'out of touch' candidate in NC runoff GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE (R-N.C.). “To make light of Mark Sanford is very unacceptable.

It was a “cheap shot,” Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashMcCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump McCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump Amash responds to Trump Jr. primary threat with Russia joke MORE (R-Mich.) tweeted after the meeting.

Republican lawmakers have been racing to avert a public-relations disaster amid intense backlash to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which has forced thousands of children to be separated from their parents and held inside chain-link fences at detention centers in Texas, California, New Jersey and other states.

The family separation issue has emerged as an unexpected flashpoint in the already heated immigration debate over young, immigrant “Dreamers” and Trump’s border wall, creating an election year nightmare for the GOP as they seek to retain control of both the House and Senate in November.

In the hours leading up to the Trump meeting, GOP leaders were scrambling to craft a last-minute fix to the family separation problem. Republicans tucked a provision into the compromise immigration bill that would bar the Department of Homeland Security from separating migrant children from their parents while they are going through criminal proceedings for illegally crossing the border.

That provision alters what’s known as the Flores settlement agreement, a 1997 court case that sets minimum standards and time limits on detention of minors. Pro-immigrant activists argue the new provision would allow families to be detained indefinitely.

“The idea that the way to end family separation is to indefinitely jail kids with their parents in family gulags at the border is as morally reprehensible as separating kids from their parents,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigrant rights advocacy organization.

Trump walked into the meeting with Ryan. They were trailed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House MORE, White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, and senior White House aides Stephen Miller and Marc Short. 

Republicans of all stripes entered the same meeting with reservations about both the compromise bill and a more conservative Goddlatte bill.

GOP immigration hawks, meanwhile, are attacking the bill from the right, contending it offers special treatment to immigrants that amounts to “amnesty.”

Wide-scale opposition from either the centrist or conservative wings of the GOP would spell doom for Ryan’s compromise bill, since Democrats are virtually unanimous in rejecting it.

“I believe every Democrat will oppose the Ryan alternative, which is really no alternative,” House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe case for congressional pay raises Approve USMCA before it's too late Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday. “It’s Goodlatte II. It’s not a moderate bill.”

If the House fails to take up the issue, Republicans will be under immense pressure to pass a stand-alone fix that keeps families together at the border.

The focus would then shift to the Senate, where McConnell has signaled there’ d be overwhelming GOP support for narrow legislation keeping immigrant families detained at the border together.
 
Alexander Bolton, Juliegrace Brufke and Rafael Bernal contributed.