Immigration overhaul on life support in the House

Immigration overhaul on life support in the House
© Greg Nash

House GOP leaders will push ahead with a vote Wednesday on their compromise immigration bill, making one last effort to pass the measure even as key lawmakers express pessimism they have any shot of success.

Lead negotiators took the weekend to make changes to the bill in an effort to secure 218 Republican votes. But even the revised measure is expected to fall short.

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“I would think [it would] fail right now,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Graham to renew call for second special counsel MORE (R-N.C.), one of the chief negotiators on the compromise bill, told Fox News on Monday.

The GOP does now appear to have a Plan B, however.

Meadows predicted a slimmed-down measure dealing just with the issue of preventing immigrant families from being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border is likely to be voted on this week if the broader bill goes down.

“I would think that if it doesn’t pass ... you’ll see a follow-up piece of legislation within days,” he said.

Members of GOP leadership conceded that they will likely need to pass a smaller bill to address family separations before they leave for the Fourth of July recess — even with an executive order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE ending the practice. Many congressional offices have received a barrage of phone calls and messages from constituents deeply concerned about the issue.

“Why would we go back without trying to fix it?” Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTrump: Republicans' and my poll numbers would be higher if not for Mueller's 'witch hunt' Bannon says right must support ‘RINOs’ Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, told The Hill.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.) promised votes on two immigration bills this month as part of a deal to stop an effort by moderates to use a discharge petition to force a freewheeling immigration debate on the House floor. That agreement included a vote on the compromise bill, as well as a more hard-line measure from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Goodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence MORE (R-Va.) that the House rejected last week in a 193-231 vote.

But the compromise legislation — the product of weeks of negotiations between GOP conservatives and moderates — has struggled to attract enough support from Republicans.

Trump complicated House GOP efforts last week when he tweeted that Republicans should stop “wasting their time” on the effort, saying the bill stands no chance of passing the Senate. The tweet capped off a week of confusion surrounding Trump’s position on the compromise measure, which he personally rallied Republicans to support, at one point telling them he was behind them “1,000 percent.”

Lead negotiators worked furiously over the weekend to retool the measure, holding several hourlong conference calls in hopes of making tweaks to the bill to win over more support.

Negotiators are still working to attach language that would add an agricultural guest worker program and mandate that employers use an electronic-verification system to ensure workers are legal — major priorities of moderates and conservatives, respectively.

Rep. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoDems make big play for House in California Immigration overhaul on life support in the House The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Calif.) said he stayed in Washington through the weekend to work on changes to the measure. But if it fails on the floor, Valadao said he’s prepared to back a standalone measure dealing only with family separations.

“If it’s a reasonable proposal, yeah, absolutely,” Valadao told The Hill. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to make sure we keep families together as much as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can.”

The compromise bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers; earmark $25 billion for Trump’s border wall and other security measures; end the diversity visa lottery program; and limit family-based migration.

It also would prevent children from being separated from their parents at the border, an issue that has exploded in recent weeks due to the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

But a handful of immigration hard-liners say there is no way they’d support the compromise bill as long as it provides citizenship for Dreamers, which many groups on the right have decried as “amnesty.”

And while conservatives have pushed to include E-Verify, they say the biggest legislative obstacle is a provision in the compromise bill that would allow Dreamers to apply for green cards for their parents once they become citizens.

“That’s in the current bill, and that’s the biggest hang-up,” Meadows said.

Some Republicans are anxious to move on from the compromise immigration effort and address the crisis at the border.

Trump sought to defuse the political crisis last week by signing an executive order to end family separations, but it’s largely seen as a temporary fix since a decades-old court ruling says children can’t be detained for more than 20 days.

Lawmakers and the White House say legislation is needed to permanently resolve the issue. That’s why House GOP leaders are working on a back-up plan to prevent family separations at the border.

Several Senate Republicans are also working on stand-alone bills.

Meadows said Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersGOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee MORE (R-Wash.), who chairs the GOP conference and is facing a tough reelection race, is one of the leading lawmakers who is helping craft a solution. But a bill likely won’t be introduced until after the House finishes consideration of the immigration measure.

“We’re looking at that,” said Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse Republicans confident there won't be a government shutdown Lawmakers move to award posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to Aretha Franklin Connect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done MORE (R-Ga.), vice chairman of the Republican conference, referring to a stand-alone fix. He acknowledged that family-separation legislation could get a vote before the end of the week if the compromise bill fails.

Other members of Ryan’s leadership team said a narrow bill could pass regardless of what happens to the compromise measure.

“Something like that could see a vote whether or not the second bill passes,” said Rep. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Republicans top Dems at charity golf game Immigration overhaul on life support in the House MORE (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.

Scott Wong contributed.