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 HigginsGOP lawmaker vows to catch those responsible for string of arsons at black churches in Louisiana GOP lawmaker says border situation threatens US 'integrity' Nielsen testifies: Five things you need to know MORE (R-La.) — to support ICE, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWatchdog: Custodial staff alleged sexual harassment in lawmakers' offices John Legend, Chrissy Teigen lash out at Trump at Dem retreat Republicans call for ex-Trump lawyer Cohen to be referred to DOJ 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 PocanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers Dems counter portrait of discord Divided Dems look to regroup MORE (Wis.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care: How 2020 Dems want to overhaul health care | Brooklyn parents sue over measles vaccination mandate | Measles outbreak nears record Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Dems counter portrait of discord MORE (Wash.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHispanic Caucus asks for meeting with top immigration official New Zealand mosque killings raise fears among US Muslims On The Money: Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution | US hits Russia with new sanctions | Dems renew push for contractor back pay | Lawmakers seek probe into undocumented workers at Trump businesses MORE (N.Y.) — the architects of the progressive-backed bill — said in a joint statement.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' Moulton enters 2020 White House race Trump takes aim at Dem talk of impeachment 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 Scalise20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure This week: Democrats revive net neutrality fight 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 DenhamCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race 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. ReedLawmakers offer bipartisan resolution highlighting sexual assault prevention GOP lawmaker: Battle over Trump tax returns 'is going to have to be litigated' Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine 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 StefanikDem gun efforts run into Senate GOP bulwark Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push 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.