House GOP leaders weigh delaying immigration vote
House Republican leaders, staring at an embarrassing defeat, are considering delaying a vote on a “compromise” immigration bill slated to hit the House floor Thursday, according to multiple GOP leadership aides.
House conservatives have been asking GOP leaders for more time to review the legislation. And House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has been advocating for additional time to whip the bill all week.
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Speaker Paul Ryan called a meeting early Thursday afternoon with other Republican leaders to discuss the situation.
“I think it is a mistake that leadership is rushing this [compromise] bill to the floor today,” Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the top negotiators of the text, said before the leadership meeting was announced.
“I actually think with a little bit more conversation, we could actually get to an agreement on things,” the Idaho Republican said. “Somebody suggested this today: we don’t have the White House picnic. Let’s spend those two hours in a room as Republicans talking about how we can actually get to 218.”
The House is still expected to vote Thursday on a more conservative immigration bill favored by GOP hardliners, which is expected to fail. It’s unclear how long GOP leaders would delay the vote on the compromise bill if they go that route.
The potential delay comes after Republican leaders spent weeks crafting the compromise bill — one that tracks with President Donald Trump’s call to beef up border security and shield Dreamers from deportation.
After laboring to strike a deal between moderate Republicans from swing districts and immigration hawks wary of being accused of supporting “amnesty,” GOP leaders still didn’t have the votes heading into Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Ryan defended his decision to bring that bill and a more conservative proposal to the floor.
“We’re giving the members the ability to vote for the policy of their preference,” Ryan told reporters Thursday morning. “The bills that are coming to the floor today are bills that if it got to [Trump’s] desk he would sign it into law. Therefore it is a legitimate exercise.”
But the bills aren’t expected to survive a House floor vote, much less make it to Trump — a damaging blow to an already weakened lame-duck speaker. Ryan’s team has downplayed the possibility of passing anything, and the Wisconsin Republican has long maintained that any solution for Dreamers would likely have to be bipartisan.
Some Republicans are predicting that a rival bill authored by immigration hard-liners could garner as many votes as the compromise package, a result that would embarrass leaders who’ve dismissed the proposal.
The expected failure of both measures is also a setback for Trump, who pitched himself to voters as the world’s greatest dealmaker. Not only does the exercise make the president look weak, the collapse of the bill will undercut his message of blaming Democrats for problems at the border. Republicans can’t get on the same page themselves.
The House will have four votes related to immigration Thursday. First, there will be a vote on the rule governing floor debate for the conservative proposal around 11:30 a.m., followed by a vote on the bill itself around 1:30 p.m. Lawmakers will then vote on the rule for the compromise plan around 3 p.m., with a vote on the bill around 5 p.m.
Trump fired off a flurry of immigration tweets Thursday morning but, notably, none were a direct push for House Republicans to back the compromise bill. Instead, the president attacked the U.S. asylum system and accused Democrats of preventing action on immigration.
“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms),” Trump tweeted. “Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule-it is killing you!”
Time and again in his dealings with Congress, and especially with Republicans, Trump has shown that he doesn’t know how to close deals on legislation. At crucial times, he hasn’t been able to move votes, due in part to his failure or unwillingness to grasp the intricacies of legislation and policy.
Trump can attack Republicans in Congress, he can confuse them, and he can scare them, but he often can’t make them vote how he wants.
“We’re still working through a lot of questions that members have,” Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Wednesday night after leaving a whip meeting. “I think the president had a really good meeting at the White House with a number of members as well and he was really strong in his support and why he wants this bill on his desk.”
Scalise acknowledged, however, that GOP leaders still don’t have 218 votes.