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House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE

In a surprising reversal, House GOP leaders have scrapped a floor vote on a Democratic measure calling for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Instead, the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution — authored by Rep. Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsOf inmates and asylums: Today's House Republicans make the John Birchers look quaint Lawmakers press AbbVie CEO on increased US prices of two drugs READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (R-La.) — to support ICE, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Schumer bemoans number of Republicans who believe Trump will be reinstated: 'A glaring warning' MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters on Monday.

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“What I found so interesting is the Democrats introduced a bill to abolish ICE ... we give them an opportunity, and they say they don’t want to vote for it,” said McCarthy, who controls which bills come to the House floor.

The California Republican said Thursday he intended to bring the abolish ICE bill to the floor in an attempt to force vulnerable Democrats to take a difficult vote. GOP leaders thought Democrats in swing districts would be reluctant to criticize the federal agency responsible for fighting human and drug trafficking and border enforcement.

But Democrats responded by vowing to vote “no” and dismissed it as an election year show vote. 

It’s a “political stunt,” Democratic Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (Wis.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Hillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over MORE (Wash.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralThe Memo: Harris, Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic divide on immigration House Democrats introduce bill to close existing gun loopholes and prevent mass shootings Hispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting MORE (N.Y.) — the architects of the progressive-backed bill — said in a joint statement.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanZaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Senators back in session after late-night hold-up MORE (R-Wis.) and his team weren’t on board with the decision to hold a vote, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. The decision to reverse course followed a standing meeting between Ryan and McCarthy on Friday, the source said.

Critics were concerned the move could ultimately backfire in the long run. 

“After being called on their bluff, Democrats ran scared from their own bill,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “Democrats will now have the chance to stand with the majority of Americans who support ICE and vote for this resolution, or follow the extreme voices on the far left calling for abolishment of an agency that protects us.”

After being told of the GOP’s change of course, Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Sunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home It's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday the idea was silly to begin with.

“They never should have brought it up in the first place,” Pelosi told The Hill. “I don’t know what they’re doing. They keep changing their minds.”

While the vote has been called off for now, House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWisconsin state lawmaker compares museum mask policy to Nazi Party Overnight Health Care: Public option plan left out of Biden budget proposal | House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin | Half the total US population have received at least one vaccine dose House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin MORE (R-La.) still would like the bill to come to the floor.

“Whip Scalise remains supportive of having this vote. He brought it up at [Republican Study Committee] steering and deputy whip this week and was met with overwhelming support from members,” a source familiar with the Louisiana Republican’s thinking told The Hill.

Earlier, vulnerable GOP moderates had expressed hesitations about taking the abolish ICE vote, arguing they’d rather focus on policy that can pass Congress.

Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.) said that while he thinks local law enforcement has done a “very good job working with all levels of law enforcement,” he doesn’t believe ICE should be abolished. He also said he thinks the agency should concentrate its efforts on battling issues like human trafficking.

“I want to see us pass policy, make some changes that affect the entire country,” Denham told The Hill

Other moderate Republican leaders also said they would not vote to abolish ICE.  

“Those who want to abolish ICE represent an extremist ideology that clearly has overtaken the Democratic party,” said Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate path uncertain after House approves Jan. 6 panel Lawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off Hundreds of businesses sign on to support LGBTQ rights legislation MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Problems Solvers Caucus. “I stand with our customs officers and their families as they risk their lives daily protecting all of us.”

Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikRecovering America through the lens of wildlife Former Trump aide eyeing New Hampshire congressional bid GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairwoman of the Tuesday Group, a bloc of GOP moderates, agreed that ICE should not be scrapped.

“I, of course, don’t agree with abolishing ICE. I represent a border district [next to Canada]. I think it’s important to support our law enforcement and make sure that we have a legal immigration system in this country,” Stefanik told The Hill on Monday.

“The thinking was getting Democrats on record because it’s a very divisive issue for them,” she added. “It would put my opponent in a difficult position.”

—Updated at 10:04 p.m. Melanie Zanona contributed.