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 MeadowsOvernight Health Care: Trump vows to veto bills expanding abortion rights | Abortion foes march into divided Washington | Medicaid work requirements approved in Arizona Abortion foes march into divided Washington McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader 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: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ 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 SessionsTop 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown Lawmakers shrug off shutdown drama MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, told The Hill.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King 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 GoodlatteHouse GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end Murkowski to reintroduce bill to help abused Native American women FBI hits GOP chairman over push to clear sensitive transcripts by Christmas Eve 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 ValadaoThe 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race 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 RodgersHillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval House Republicans question mobile carriers on data practices Washington governor announces killer whale recovery plan 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 CollinsTop Judiciary Republican sees potential for bipartisan agreement on cyber issues Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy Republicans question progress on probe of DOJ, FBI actions during 2016 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 MesserYoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office Indiana New Members 2019 MORE (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.

Scott Wong contributed.