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 VelaFish and Wildlife Service working with Border Patrol to protect animal refuges amid border wall construction: report Majority of Hispanic Caucus votes against spending bill with wall funds A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal 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 TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg 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 petition in question was started by Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (R-Fla.) to get a floor vote on four immigration bills to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
 
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 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.) 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.
 
The USA Act, penned by fellow Texas border Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts MORE (R) and Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarSenate removes 'white nationalist' from measure to screen military enlistees: report Hispanic Caucus dedicates Day of the Dead altar to migrants who died in US custody Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE (D-Calif.) would also include a special path to citizenship for about 1.8 million so-called Dreamers — immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as minors.
 
 
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.