House Republicans are looking to President Donald Trump to help them pass a GOP solution for Dreamers. But even if he weighs in, it’s unclear that the bill will pass.
Conservatives have not committed to voting for the framework GOP leaders crafted after weeks of negotiation with moderate Republicans and the far-right. The final details of the bill are still being worked out, and conservatives in the past few days have sought to secure additional enforcement boosts in the legislation — provisions that worry moderates and GOP leaders.
Still, Speaker Paul Ryan told his conference during a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning that Trump was “excited” about the prospects of passage. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hard-liner, came to the Hill Wednesday afternoon and encouraged the 160 conservatives in the Republican Study Committee to support the bill.
“We’ve been working hand in glove with the administration on to make sure that we’re bringing a bill that represents the president’s ‘four pillars’ so that we can come together, have the votes that everyone is looking for but more importantly, this represents a consensus between our members so that we can move forward on the immigration issue,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday. “It’s a product of good compromise.”
That’s not the full story, however. While GOP leaders have worked closely with both factions, there is still no agreement between moderates and conservatives, and many senior Republicans say they’re not convinced this “compromise” will pass.
Ryan’s office is expected to release the draft bill Wednesday. The proposal would allow more than one million Dreamers to eventually find a pathway to citizenship. The bill will also include $25 billion for Trump’s border wall with Mexico, and safeguards to ensure that if any money for the wall is rescinded in the future by Democrats, Dreamers’ pathway to the legal system would be shut off.
The bill would curb family migration and end the visa lottery program, transferring all of those visas to a new merit-based green-card program that Dreamers and other immigrants could apply for.
With those provisions, the plan aligns well with what Trump proposed earlier this year, which was rejected by a bipartisan Senate majority. But it’s unclear how hard the president himself will lean in to whip the bill.
Even if he does, some conservatives remain skeptical of the legislation. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker has mused that the new path to citizenship provided in the draft text, while concocted by a conservative in the Freedom Caucus, would provide a “special” pathway. That’s a toxic word for conservatives who are loath to give Dreamers preferred status over immigrants who came to the U.S. legally.
Conservatives like Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who helped come up with the idea, argue that it’s not special treatment and would put Dreamers at the back of the line behind legal immigrants.
Conservatives have also pushed hard to include E-Verify, a mandate requiring all businesses verify the legal status of their workers. But GOP leaders and moderates argue that would complicate the bill and keep it from passing.
Moderates and conservatives continue to meet to try to reach a deal on the final legislative text.
Ryan’s announcement late Tuesday night that the House would vote on immigration legislation next week abruptly halted a push from GOP moderates who were threatening to join with Democrats and force votes codifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Lawmakers emerging from the GOP conference Wednesday morning predicted passage of whatever compromise emerges. Rep. Dennis Ross, who previously considered signing the moderates’ discharge petition, said the entire exercise was successful in creating a process to trigger immigration votes, even if he didn’t ultimately join his centrist colleagues.
Other discharge petition signers argued the same.
“Many of us that signed the discharge petition did so out of a level frustration that it did not appear that we were going to do any votes on immigration, and we could not go to Nov. 6 without addressing DACA, without addressing Dreamers, without addressing ag,” said petition signer Rep. Chris Collins of New York. “Leadership came through. We’re going to do that next week.”
He added: “Mission accomplished.”
Some moderates were clearly feeling defensive for failing to garner the 218 signatures needed for their discharge petition. Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) told reporters that moderates had the signatures last night if they wanted them but decided not to add them, which was disputed by several moderate and leadership sources following the issue closely.
“We reached a compromise,” Katko said — even though conservatives have not agreed to anything.
Public spin aside, many moderates tell POLITICO they feel discouraged.
The centrists say conservatives have been unfairly tough in negotiations, and they’re unhappy that leadership picked off their would-be petition signers who could help them force immigration votes. Their last hope is in getting a deal with conservatives — and that the president will help GOP leaders pass something.