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 DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine MORE (R-Calif.) and Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloPelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House The Hill's Morning Report - Congress returns: What to expect Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback MORE (R-Fla.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTexas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks House panel calls for Afghanistan envoy to testify about deal with Taliban, hints at subpoena 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 TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth 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 SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordMark Sanford debates cardboard cutout of Trump to protest South Carolina canceling its GOP primary Joe Walsh: GOP is a 'cult' and Trump a 'would-be dictator' RNC spokeswoman on 2020 GOP primary cancellations: 'This is not abnormal' 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 ScaliseOn The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban 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 MeadowsMeadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump ousts Bolton; GOP exhales after win in NC Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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 FeinsteinGrassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings MORE (D-Calif.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinProspects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Trump defends push to ban flavored e-cigarettes: Let's 'keep young children from Vaping!' MORE (D-Ill.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzProspects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Ted Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report 2020 Democrats call for Kavanaugh to be impeached MORE (R-Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland Tillis The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration Tillis places big ad buy as he faces wealthy GOP challenger 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 ThornberryRepublicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks MORE (R-Texas), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, and Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Gun debate to shape 2020 races MORE (R-Okla.), who is overseeing the Senate bill in Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE’s (R-Ariz.) absence.