McCarthy dismisses push for vote on immigration bills

McCarthy dismisses push for vote on immigration bills
© Greg Nash
Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections 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 AguilarPro-business Dem group sees boost in fundraising Left flexes muscle in immigration talks Immigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security 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."
Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs MORE (R-N.C.), the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, opposes Denham's plan and has support for the bill from Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.). Meadows warned that inaction from leadership could result in a successful discharge petition.
"[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 GrishamTrump jokes after rallygoer suggests migrants be shot Conserving wildlife migrations is part science, part policy Republicans target voter registration drives with new state laws MORE (D-N.M.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Iraq War vet Ortiz Jones sets up rematch against Hurd in Texas MORE (R-Texas), Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard Coffman20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R-Colo.) and David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoThe 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race 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-AllardIt's time to retire primate experiments Bill allowing Congress to hire Dreamers advances On The Money: Fed holds rates steady as economy strengthens | Trump requests .5 billion more for border crisis | Dems seek unity on spending bills | Moore looks to save Fed bid 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.
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 TaylorVirginia special prosecutor indicts former GOP campaign staffer The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Ex-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax 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.