Three House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding

Three House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding
© Greg Nash
For weeks, centrist House Republicans have hoped to convince 25 of their GOP colleagues to sign a discharge petition to force a floor vote on immigration.
 
But now, with three Democrats saying they won't support the vote, they need at least 28 Republicans.
 
To succeed, discharge petitions need to amass 218 signatures — half the number of House seats, regardless of absences or vacancies. If all 193 House Democrats sign on to a discharge petition, 25 Republicans need to also sign on.
 
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So far, 190 House Democrats have signed on, along with 23 Republicans.
 
Three Texas Democrats — Reps. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaProgressives’ wins highlight divide in Democratic Party Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry MORE, Henry Cuellar and Vicente González — say they won't sign the petition because there's too high a chance that the end result will fund a border wall, which they oppose.
 
Vela, Cuellar and González represent Texas border districts that adamantly oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE's proposed border wall. Border cities in those districts are highly integrated with their Mexican counterparts, they boast large immigrant and Mexican-American populations, and are wary of relinquishing lands to the federal government for wall construction.
 
Discharge petitions, which allow rank-and-file members to go around leadership and the committee process to force a floor vote, are hardly ever successful.
 
 
The bills would be voted on under what's known as a "Queen of The Hill" rule, where the proposal with the most votes past the 50 percent threshold is approved and sent to the Senate.
 
Vela was the first Democrat to publicly speak out against the discharge petition after a story by The Hill quoted Minority Whip Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (D-Md.) saying Democrats have previously offered — and would continue to offer — wall funding in exchange for "Dreamer" protections.
 
That led to a blowout between Vela and Hoyer, in which the former criticized Democratic leadership for their failure to "protect this country from the ever-expanding acceptance of Trump’s atrocious border wall."
 
On Wednesday, Vela showed reporters on Capitol Hill his smartphone home screen with The Hill's story on Hoyer as the background image.
 
Democrats held out hope Vela would come around, as he, Cuellar and González strongly support Dreamer protections.
 
But Vela, who centered his campaign on opposition to Trump's wall, did not budge.
 
"I’m not in the middle on that thing,” Vela warned. “I’m a no.”
 
The three South Texas Democrats are concerned that one of the proposals most likely to win Queen of The Hill, the "USA Act," includes $25 billion in border security funding.
 
 
 
That likely means three out of four proposals would significantly increase border security funding, almost certainly including physical barriers.
 
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, urged Vela to reconsider his opposition, arguing the USA Act does not explicitly fund a wall.
 
"There is absolutely nothing as currently formulated for wall funding in this thing," said Gutierrez, a Chicago-area representative. 
 
"If [Vela is] correct, then that's the moment you need to reconsider. But I don't think you stop this process from moving forward for fear of what might come."
 
But Vela didn't budge.
 
"I love Luis but he last said he would build the wall himself if it meant getting DACA. If he means building a wall around Chicago, I'm all for it," said Vela.
 
—Mike Lillis contributed.