House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans

House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans
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A bipartisan bill to grant temporary relief from immigration enforcement to Venezuelans in the United States passed the House in a 272-158 vote on Tuesday.

The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 passed by simple majority, with 232 Democrats, 39 Republicans and one independent voting in favor.

The measure, co-sponsored by Florida Reps. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status Let's build a better post-COVID future than fossil fuel consolidation MORE (D) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R), passed after failing to reach a two-thirds majority in a separate vote Tuesday.

Soto said the addition of two new Republican votes from Tuesday to Thursday could help the bill's chances in the Senate.

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"As you've seen, quoting everyone, from our speaker to Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and Vice President Pence, we want this to be as bipartisan as possible -- it gives us a better chance in the Senate," said Soto.

In Tuesday's vote, the Venezuela TPS bill received 268 votes in favor, including 230 from Democrats, 37 from Republicans and one independent vote – 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority.

The earlier attempt to pass the bill was done through suspension of the rules, a fast-track method that requires a two-thirds vote in the House, but does not preclude a bill from being later considered under regular order.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of emergency loans | House seeks to salvage vote on spending bill | Economists tell lawmakers: Kill the virus to heal the economy House moves toward spending vote after bipartisan talks House Democrats mull delay on spending bill vote MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday he "expected" to include the bill in this week's calendar before lawmakers leave for the monthlong August recess.

"The Republicans were divided. As I understand it, two of their committee ranking members were divided, Judiciary and Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs being for it, Judiciary being against it, and, therefore, their votes were divided. As a result, we didn't get two-thirds, so we're going to put it on a rule, if we can get there," he said.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Schumer interrupted during live briefing by heckler: 'Stop lying to the people' Jacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee MORE (D-N.Y.) lauded the House passage of the vote. 

“The House of Representatives just spoke in a bipartisan voice that the situation is Venezuela is so dire and dangerous that nationals of Venezuela should be eligible for temporary protected status. I commend this legislative effort, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE recently denied bipartisan congressional requests to extend TPS relief for Venezuelans," Schumer wrote.

"Senator McConnell must bring this legislation for a vote without delay. Any attempt to block this legislation turns a blind eye to the many Venezuelans yearning for a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Venezuela,” he added.

Democratic leadership attached the Venezuela bill to a rule to vote on the 2-year budget agreement reached by congressional leaders this week, allowing both bills to go up for a floor vote Thursday.

Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Hillicon Valley: Dems seek to expand DHS probe after whistleblower complaint | DHS rejects House subpoena for Wolf to testify | Facebook rolls out new features for college students Democrats call for narrowing digital divide to help students during pandemic MORE (D-Fla.), a member of the Rules Committee, said the extra two days served the bill's supporters well.

"We walked over across the aisle and educated more people. And I have to give credit to Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-Balart'Trump show' convention sparks little interest on K Street Rep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Watchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 MORE, because he talked to his colleagues," said Shalala.

Díaz-Balart touted the fact that the bill if ratified by the Senate and passed by President Trump would add Venezuelan nationals to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program legislatively, rather than through an administrative process.

"I think whether it happens legislatively, which is the preferred way to do it in my view, or not, we have to continue to work to make sure that Venezuelans are not sent back to a situation where you have a murderous dictatorship," said Díaz-Balart.

Under TPS, foreign nationals from a country that's undergone man-made or natural disasters can apply for a work permit and are allowed to stay in the country as long as their country is designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Trump ordered the termination of TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras and Nepal, but those orders have been tied up in court proceedings.

Opponents of the Venezuela TPS Act argue that the program's temporary nature has been lost, and if it were applied to the more-than 200,000 Venezuelans in the country today, they would ultimately remain in the U.S.

The measure was sponsored by four Republicans: Díaz-Balart, Reps. John Curtis (Utah) and Christopher Smith (N.J.) and Del. Jenniffer Gonzalez-ColonJenniffer Aydin Gonzalez ColonStatehood for Puerto Rico and the obstruction of justice The myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away Chef José Andrés activates charity to serve meals in Puerto Rico after earthquake MORE (P.R.), and 30 Democrats, including Soto.

A Senate companion bill was introduced by Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezKasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage MORE (D-N.J.) in February, and currently has the support of eight other Senate Democrats, as well as that of Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up Press: Notorious RBG vs Notorious GOP MORE (R-Fla.).

A majority of the Venezuelan expat community lives in Florida – of the 13 Democratic Florida representatives, nine including Soto signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Passage of the bill puts pressure on Senate Republicans, who'll have to weigh potential political fallout in Florida by sending the bill to Trump.

Venezuela's inclusion in TPS has proven a tricky proposition for the Trump administration.

In considering Venezuelans for the program, Trump's general opposition to TPS has come in conflict with the administration's push for regime change in the South American country, a top Hemispheric policy priority.

And the issue could have electoral repercussions as well, as Venezuelan-Americans in Florida represent a growing voting bloc, and share affinities with the state's large Cuban-American community.

Earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli declined a Senate-led request to grant TPS to Venezuelans in the United States.

Cuccinelli did not rule out a future change of heart, but he did criticize the courts' involvement in blocking termination of other TPS designations.

Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney contributed to this story.