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 SotoHillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Lawmakers voice skepticism over Facebook's deepfake ban Democrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data 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 HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer urges declassification of letter from Pence aide No rush to judgment on Trump — it's been ongoing since Election Day Collins walks impeachment tightrope 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 TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation 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 ShalalaOvernight Health Care: Kansas leaders reach deal to expand Medicaid | California to launch own prescription drug label | Dem senator offers bill banning e-cigarette flavors A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House panel unveils rival fix for surprise medical bills | Democrats punt vote on youth vaping bill | Pelosi drug bill poised for passage after deal with progressives 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-BalartOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers House passes stopgap as spending talks stall 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 ColonChef José Andrés activates charity to serve meals in Puerto Rico after earthquake House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans House fails to pass temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans MORE (P.R.), and 30 Democrats, including Soto.

A Senate companion bill was introduced by Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers 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 RubioSenators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones 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.