House GOP struggles to win votes for compromise immigration measure

House GOP struggles to win votes for compromise immigration measure
© Greg Nash

House Republican leaders are struggling to secure 218 votes for a compromise GOP immigration bill, despite a personal plea from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE on Tuesday to pass the legislation.

Conservatives aren’t promising to support the bill ahead of Thursday’s vote, and it’s far from clear the GOP can win its approval.

“I think getting this compromise bill to the finish line is going to be a lot more challenging than I would have anticipated,” centrist Rep. Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloOvernight Energy: Park Service closing Joshua Tree after shutdown damage | Dems deliver trash from parks to White House | Dems offer bills to block offshore drilling | Oil lobby worries about Trump trade fight Ex-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (R-Pa.) told reporters Wednesday. “The conservatives aren’t going along with it.”

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“I know other members who are apprehensive,” added Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus who is leaning against the bill. “I think [the vote] will be really close.”

If the measure goes down in flames, leadership will be left without a clear plan to prevent immigrant families from being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, which is creating a political crisis for the Trump administration and Republicans.

Trump appeared to take steps to end the crisis later on Wednesday, saying he would sign an executive order to address the issue. The White House did not immediately provide details on what the executive order would do.

That could solve the most pressing issue for Congressional Republicans, but the House GOP would be stuck with no clear path forward for protecting “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children and have seen Trump unwind an Obama-era program allowing them to work and live in the country. Pressure to take action on this issue had led to a near revolt by vulnerable GOP centrists this summer.

Several members of the 160-member Republican Study Committee told the Hill they are either opposed or leaning against the compromise bill. The conservative group will huddle Wednesday afternoon to decide whether to take a position.

Groups on the right including NumbersUSA and Heritage Action are deriding the compromise bill as “amnesty” for providing a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million Dreamers. Conservative lawmakers fear they’ll be attacked from the right if they vote for the bill.   

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) and his leadership team informed members on Wednesday they’re pushing ahead with Thursday votes on a pair of rival immigration bills: the compromise legislation negotiated between centrist and conservative Republicans, and a more hardline measure authored by Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end MORE (R-Va.).

“We don't think families should be separated. Period. We've seen the videos and heard the audio,” Ryan told reporters, referring to recordings of detained immigrant children crying and calling for their parents.

But neither measure is likely to pass with 218 votes.

Conservatives are pushing for last-minute changes to the compromise bill, including language that would prevent Dreamers from being able to apply for green cards for their parents after they become citizens. 

When pressed on whether the legislation could be tweaked before the vote, Goodlatte said “there’s lots of discussions going on.”  
 
“I can’t really say what would happen, but it’s certainly possible other things could happen,” Goodlatte said. “But we’re not there yet.” 
With the vote count in question, leadership kicked their whip operation into high-gear as they worked to sell wavering members on the compromise plan. 
 
Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTexas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland MORE (R-La.) gave Trump a list of undecided members that the president needs to work with personally on the legislation. Those members were then hauled to the White House in vans for a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by Ryan and his leadership team.
 
The administration also deployed Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE to talk to members of the RSC during their Wednesday lunch, while Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE is scheduled to meet with a group of Republicans in the Capitol later in the day.
 
A number of Senate Republicans are still pushing ahead with legislative fixes for for the family-separation issue, including a measure from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would require most children be kept with their family members while also creating an “expedited process” to process immigrants’ asylum claims.

There was some discussion among House members Wednesday morning about just taking up whatever bill the Senate passes.

“I’m hearing that the Senate may move the Cruz bill,” said Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonBill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland House panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales MORE (R-Mich.). “A couple members are individually saying why don’t we take that up and pass it today.”