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 VelaHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Texas Democrat proposes COVID-19 victims' compensation fund 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 TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts 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 CurbeloThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest GOP wants more vision, policy from Trump at convention Mucarsel-Powell, Giménez to battle for Florida swing district 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 HoyerCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline 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 HurdHillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (R) and Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarOn The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Anxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair 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.