McCarthy dismisses push for vote on immigration bills

McCarthy dismisses push for vote on immigration bills
© Greg Nash
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthy58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE (R-Calif.) on Thursday dismissed a bipartisan proposal to vote on four immigration bills at once, despite growing support among the GOP's rank-and-file for a vote.
Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.) has rounded up 49 Republicans to support what's known as a "Queen of the Hill" rule, a proposal to consider several bills at once.
By teaming up with 190 Democrats recruited to support the measure by Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony MORE (D-Calif.), the Republicans could force a vote without leadership's consent.
Forcing the vote, using what's known as a discharge petition, would amount to a challenge to leadership. Still, it's one that more and more supporters of immigration reform seem to be comfortable with.
While Denham said he has the numbers for a discharge petition, he’s expressed reluctance to commit to filing the motion. 
Still, leadership is dismissing the notion altogether.
"I don't believe discharge petitions are the way to legislate," McCarthy told The Hill. "I don't believe members in the conference believe that, either."
"[Denham's] got 50 co-sponsors, so they would have to convince more than half of those to not sign on to a discharge," he said.
Denham, who presented the strategy on Wednesday flanked by Aguilar and Reps. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamNew Mexico launching vaccine sweepstakes with M in prizes The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines MORE (D-N.M.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R-Texas), Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado governor says he was not exposed to COVID-19 after Aurora mayor tests positive Colorado mayor says he called protesters 'domestic terrorists' out of 'frustration' Colorado governor directs officials to reexamine death of Elijah McClain in police custody MORE (R-Colo.) and David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoPro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (R-Calif.), dismissed Ryan's concerns about a Trump veto, saying few bipartisan measures have such widespread support.
"You should not need to force a vote or have a discharge petition or have a protest out in the front yard when you have 250-plus people that are continuing to sign on," said Denham. "So this growing number, we think, will not only show the Speaker but will show the president that this is what the people's House wants to do."
At issue is legislation to restore protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump ended in September.
After a flurry of legislative attempts, Congress essentially gave up on DACA after the courts put a stay on Trump's rescission of the program, allowing its 690,000 recipients to keep their benefits: work permits and protection for deportation.
During that legislative whirlwind, four rough proposals to deal with the future of so-called Dreamers — DACA recipients and other immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors — were considered.
Under Denham's rule, those four proposals would be voted on at the same time on the House floor, and whichever idea received the most votes over 218 would be sent to the Senate.
Under "Queen of the Hill," slots are assigned to specific legislators to propose their own bills. 
The slots in Denham's rule are for Goodlatte, who is expected to propose a conservative measure that would grant temporary protection to DACA recipients in exchange for cuts to the legal immigration system; Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Latina lawmakers discuss efforts to increase representation MORE (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship to roughly 1.8 million Dreamers; Ryan, who's expected to propose a bill akin to a four-pillar White House proposal; and Denham, who has said he'll propose the USA Act, a bipartisan measure that ties the Dream Act to extensive border security measures.
The array of options has not been enough to convince Ryan or McCarthy, who've pledged to support Goodlatte's proposal, that a Queen of the Hill strategy is the path forward.
But for some House conservatives, it's an understandable strategy — if not one they'll sign on to.
"Jeff Denham is representing the 750,000 people he's got the privilege of representing, and he believes he needs to have a vote that deals with DACA," said Meadows.
"I can't criticize that. Even though it may not be my path, it's certainly to be applauded," he added.
Still, Ryan's stuck to his support for the Goodlatte bill and to laying blame on Democrats, who declined in March an offer from the White House that would extend DACA until 2020 in exchange for $25 billion in border security funding.
"Republicans made three good-faith offers during the omnibus negotiations and Democrats declined all of them. We continue to work to find the support for a solution that addresses both border security and DACA," said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan.
That's started to wear at the patience of Republicans who favor immigration legislation, particularly those from Latino-heavy districts or suburban districts where a DACA solution has polled well.
Rep. Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseBiden administration stokes frustration over Canada Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (R-Wash.), who in December led 34 House Republicans in writing a letter to Ryan asking for quick action on the matter, said he's still working to move legislation forward without forcing a vote. 
Asked if a discharge petition was the next step, Newhouse said, "I'm getting close to the point where I think we have to get this done and Congress has to work this through." 
"This is almost a last-ditch effort, which we may be getting close to that, but I'm not sure we are yet. But if that's an option to have it available, I'm OK with that," he added.
Newhouse has not signed on to Denham's resolution, although he supports it, because he is a member of the Rules Committee.
Rep. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorElaine Luria endorses McAuliffe for governor in Virginia Democratic primary Luria holds onto Virginia House seat Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch MORE (R-Va.), who's signed on to Denham's resolution, said he doesn't yet support a discharge petition, but criticized leadership for using a potential presidential veto as an argument not to consider Denham's proposal.
"I don't think that we should operate like that, in terms of what we think the president may or may not do," said Taylor. 
"I know that [Ryan] said that before. Respectfully, I'm not sure if I'd agree with that," he added.