This week: House barrels toward immigration vote despite Trump tweets

This week: House barrels toward immigration vote despite Trump tweets
© Greg Nash

The House is gearing up to vote on its compromise immigration legislation later in the week after tweaks to the legislation were worked on over the weekend.

The bill — introduced by Reps. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Lobbying world Harder advances in race to keep California House seat MORE (R-Calif.) and Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Republicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign MORE (R-Fla.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (R-Texas) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) last week — was initially scheduled for a vote on Thursday and was then pushed back to Friday. It was then further delayed after a conference meeting Thursday evening to allow time for whipping efforts and changes to be made.

Following the conference meeting, conservatives said there was discussion of including provisions on an agricultural guest worker program and a requirement that employers use an electronic verification system, known as E-Verify, to ensure workers are in the United States legally.

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The compromise bill was written after weeks of negotiations between conservatives, centrists and House GOP leadership. It provides a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers," who came to the U.S. illegally as children; $25 billion for Trump's border wall and other security measures; an end to the diversity visa lottery program and limits on family-based migration.

It’s unclear whether moderates will still support the bill if the E-Verify language is added.

“I think there is going to be a discussion on [E-Verify]," centrist Curbelo, one of the lead negotiators, told The Hill following the conference meeting, adding he’ll have to see what the final product looks like before deciding if the change is something he could support.

The changes come after a conservative-backed immigration measure introduced by Goodlatte failed on the floor Thursday in a closer-than-expected vote. The vote effectively killed a discharge petition — which would have circumvented leadership and forced votes on four immigration measures, with the one receiving the most votes being sent to the Senate — introduced by Curbelo in May.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE tweeted Friday that Republicans should shift their efforts until after the midterm elections, throwing a wrench into House GOP lawmakers’ quest to pass a bill to address a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and an increase in border security.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!” Trump said in a tweet.

Trump is seizing on immigration as a key issue heading toward November. He added on Sunday evening that while a border security bill could pass the House “it still has to pass in the Senate, and for that we need 10 Democrat votes, and all they do is RESIST. ... Need more Republicans to WIN in November!”

Rank-and-file members, including leading Trump critics, warned that the rhetoric doomed their ability to pass a bill, with GOP lawmakers wary of passing something the president doesn’t support. Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordThe Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? Libertarians view Amash as potential 2020 game changer for party Trump becomes presumptive GOP nominee after sweeping primaries MORE (R-S.C.) warned that an immigration bill is “dead” without Trump’s backing, while centrist Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), quipped that it had been “tweet-pedoed.”

But GOP leaders remain confident the president will sign the immigration bill if they manage to pass it through both chambers.

“We want to solve this problem and President Trump wants to solve this problem. I think what he's doing in these tweets is expressing his frustration that Democrats are unwilling to work with anybody to actually vote for a legislative solution," House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScalisePelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections Blue Dogs call for bipartisan investigation into China's handling of coronavirus MORE (R-La.) told reporters Friday. "I mean every Democrat voted no yesterday on a bill that really does address a lot of the problems that we have in our broken immigration system and gets back to rule of law and I think they would rather it be a political issue and exploit kids."

McCaul told "Fox News Sunday" that Trump was ”still 100 percent behind” the House immigration bill despite his string of tweets.

It’s possible the House votes on a narrow bill to address family separations — an issue that has gained steam following bipartisan pushback over children being separated from their parents at the border. Both House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump to return to Florida for rescheduled SpaceX launch Pence names new press secretary House leaders take vote-counting operations online MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) have introduced bills to address the problem.

Family separation

A key group of senators are expected to meet on Monday as they search for a deal on legislation focused on immigrant families detained along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The issue boiled over this month amid days of high-profile coverage of migrant children being separated from their parents as a result of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

Trump ultimately signed an executive order last week that said families could be detained together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

But the executive order has sowed confusion, with different agencies offering contradicting interpretations of how the executive order is being carried out. Meanwhile, lawmakers — who expect Trump’s action will get tied up in a court battle — say legislation is still needed.

So far, bills introduced in the Senate have broken down along party lines, underscoring the difficulty of getting 60 votes on the lightning rod political issue months before the November midterm election.

But Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (D-Calif.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (D-Ill.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for Iran nuclear projects | Top Dems says State working on new Saudi arms sale | 34-year-old Army reservist ID'd as third military COVID-19 death Trump administration ends waivers in Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran Romney defends Joe Scarborough, staffer's widower: 'Enough already' MORE (R-Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits Tillis campaign releases first general election TV ad emphasizing 'humble' roots The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Cuomo rings the first opening bell since March MORE (R-N.C.) are expected to sit down on Monday to go over their competing proposals and start looking for potential areas of agreement.

"Hopefully [we'll] go over both bills and see if there's something both sides can agree to,” Feinstein told reporters late last week.

Government funding

The Senate is expected to pass its first spending bill of fiscal 2019 as Republicans try to avoid a third government shutdown heading toward the fall.

Senators are scheduled to take a final vote Monday evening on a “mini-bus” that combines funding for energy and water, the legislative branch and military construction and veterans affairs.

The bill includes roughly $146.6 billion in spending, an increase of roughly $5.7 billion from 2018, and represents a quarter of the 12 annual appropriations bills.

The three appropriations bills already cleared the House earlier this month, and will need to be conferenced to work out differences.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to fund the government. But lawmakers are hoping to get most, if not all, of the funding bills done in advance after Trump threatened to veto a massive omnibus bill that Congress passed in March.

Trump, at the time, blasted the $1.3 trillion spending bill, calling it a “ridiculous situation.” Though he ultimately backed down from a short-lived veto threat, he warned Congress at the time that he would not sign a similar bill in the future.

The House is also expected to take up a mammoth bill funding the Defense Department.

Farm bill

The Senate is turning to the farm bill this week, after the House narrowly passed its version of the bill late last week.

Senators are scheduled to hold an initial procedural vote to end debate on proceeding to the bill on Monday evening.

The bill easily cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee in a 20-1 vote. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will cost $867 billion over a decade.

Once the Senate passes its bill it will need to be merged with the House legislation, which picked up no support from Democrats.

The Senate’s bill steered clear of changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, setting up a controversial fight with House lawmakers.

The House legislation imposes new work requirements on the food stamps program, and tightens overall eligibility on who can qualify for the federal assistance.

NDAA

The House is slated to vote to go to conference with the upper chamber on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week.

The lower chamber passed passed its $717 billion defense policy bill for fiscal 2019 in a 351-66 vote in May while the Senate easily passed its $716 billion defense bill last week.

The respective bills have a number of discrepancies, including the level troop numbers would be increased.

The Senate has not announced when it will go to conference.

But lawmakers will need to hash out their differences on Trump’s deal to revive Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE as part of the conference committee negotiations.

Under a deal announced by the Commerce Department, the company would pay a fine and place a U.S.-selected compliance team in the firm in exchange for the administration lifting penalties enacted after ZTE violated U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

The Senate bill keeps the Commerce Department penalties in place, as well as banning government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE as well as ban the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

The Senate provision drew backlash from the White House and Trump allies on Capitol Hill who are pledging to use an NDAA conference committee to get the language changed.

Trump discussed the issue last week during a White House meeting with a group of Republicans, including Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryBoosting military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Texas), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, and Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper escalates war of words with Warren, Democratic senators | Senate panel plans to skip DHS, VA spending bills MORE (R-Okla.), who is overseeing the Senate bill in Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHow Obama just endorsed Trump Former Texas Rep. Sam Johnson dies at 89 Trump's needless nastiness and cruelty will catch up with him MORE’s (R-Ariz.) absence.