Trump betrays House Republicans on immigration
Two days ago, President Donald Trump promised House Republicans he’d have their backs “1,000 percent” on immigration. On Friday, he told them to “stop wasting their time” — putting GOP leaders in an impossible position and throwing the conference into chaos.
But House Republican leaders say they plan to forge ahead with an immigration vote next week nonetheless.
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Speaker Paul Ryan’s team has spent weeks trying to strike an accord between moderate Republicans from swing districts and conservatives who are petrified of being accused of supporting “amnesty.”
And House Republicans exited a Thursday night meeting saying they believed they had a “breakthrough” between the two wings of the party on a compromise that would help Dreamers and boost border security.
But Trump undercut his party’s plans Friday, telling them to wait until after the midterm elections to act.
“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor that they would vote next week anyway, a rare act of defiance for the close Trump ally.
“We have been working very closely with the entire conference, taking all ideas in,” McCarthy said. “We had a very productive conference last night, and we’ll work through the weekend and you will see that bill on the floor next week.”
Still, the tweet puts Ryan in a serious bind.
To stave off a discharge petition from moderate Republicans and Democrats, the Wisconsin Republican promised the centrists that he’d give them a vote on some sort of bill they could support. If Ryan listens to Trump and cancels the vote, moderates will be furious.
“Votes were pledged in order to turn off the discharge petition,” Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told reporters Friday. “The intention is to fulfill it.“
But if Ryan holds the vote, the result could be catastrophic. GOP members who thought they could support the bill have already started telling leadership that they will no longer vote for it. They simply cannot go up against the president, they say.
That means the bill likely would fail in spectacular fashion on the House floor, which would be a huge embarrassment to leadership and an affront to the rank in file who have spent hundreds of hours in negotiations.
The vote could also endanger the lame-duck speaker. Rep. Steve King, a vocal hard-liner, suggested Friday that some conservatives could try to oust Ryan with a motion to vacate the chair, though King was coy about why he thought so.
“We’ll have to see how that cooks over the weekend,” the Iowa Republican said. “I’m reading the tea leaves, but I believe [a motion to vacate] is prepared.”
That could fuel a backlash, however. Members across the spectrum have praised Ryan for his work trying to find a GOP solution on immigration, working with all corners of the conference. Conservatives who then punish him could face their own political attacks from Ryan loyalists.
Trump’s tweet suggests that the president has retracted his original view of the bill. While the compromise legislation mirrors his own immigration framework — cracking down at the border and finding a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants — the president didn’t like the word “moderate” being used to describe the package.
Last Friday, he told “Fox & Friends” that he would not sign it, only to be walked back by GOP leaders and White House officials who had been working on the measure. On Tuesday, he came to the Hill to try to tell members it’s OK to vote for both the compromise bill and a more conservative immigration bill, which was voted down on Thursday.
“I am with you all the way,” he told them Tuesday night.