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 Higgins58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill GOP lawmaker vows to catch those responsible for string of arsons at black churches in Louisiana GOP lawmaker says border situation threatens US 'integrity' MORE (R-La.) — to support ICE, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump touts Washington Post story on GOP support Pence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks Marijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis 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 PocanOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry MORE (Wis.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalPelosi woos progressives on prescription drug pricing plan Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril Overnight Health Care: Watchdog details severe trauma suffered by separated children | Judge approves B CVS-Aetna merger | House Dem Caucus chair backs 'Medicare for All' MORE (Wash.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHouse Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Congressional Hispanic Caucus members call for diversity within the Fed MORE (N.Y.) — the architects of the progressive-backed bill — said in a joint statement.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea 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 PelosiPence says it's 'vital' for Congress to pass US-Mexico-Canada trade deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' 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 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.) 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 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.) 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 ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedLobbying World Gun debate to shape 2020 races Conservatives push Trump tariff relief over payroll tax cuts 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 StefanikBarbra Streisand calls for end to 'antiquated' Electoral College Republican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems 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.