Renegade Republicans challenge Paul Ryan, file discharge petition to force immigration votes
File discharge petition to force immigration votes
A small group of Republicans has launched an effort to sidestep House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and put immigration legislation on the House floor this year in a bid to secure protections for young undocumented immigrants.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) filed a discharge petition Wednesday morning that, if signed by a majority of House members, would force votes on a series of immigration bills under a so-called queen of the hill rule. Whichever of those bills receives the most votes, exceeding a majority, would pass the House — a setup that is calibrated to secure passage of a bipartisan compromise.
Six other Republicans — Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.), David G. Valadao (Calif.), Will Hurd (Tex.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Mia B. Love (Utah) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) — also signed the discharge petition Wednesday alongside Curbelo. Most represent swing districts with significant Latino constituencies.
Mindful of the treacherous politics surrounding the issue in the Republican Party, Ryan has declined to move forward with any significant immigration legislation since becoming speaker in 2015 despite personally supporting bills that would give some illegal immigrants a pathway to stay legally in the United States. Conservatives have strongly opposed any “amnesty” for adults who have come to the U.S. illegally — and, for many, that also extends to “dreamers,” children brought illegally to the U.S. through no fault of their own.
As a March deadline approached for the expiration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program protecting dreamers, Ryan and other GOP leaders pushed to hone a conservative bill that would allow a limited path to legal status for those who have been protected by DACA, one authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.). But that bill included limits on legal immigration, new restrictions on hiring and other provisions that have turned off more moderate Republicans such as Curbelo, Denham and company.
Federal judges have since held up the cancellation of the DACA program, which has all but eliminated the sense of urgency among GOP leaders to bring up immigration legislation — especially in an election year.
The Republicans backing the discharge petition have other ideas. But to succeed, even if they persuade all 193 Democrats to sign, the backers of the discharge petition would still need to find 18 more Republicans beyond the seven current signers to reach the required 218 signatures.
That could be a tall order, because lawmakers in the majority party are typically reluctant to undermine their leadership’s control of the floor by supporting a discharge. Election-year politics, however, could come into play as vulnerable incumbents are challenged on the campaign trail to support immigration reform legislation.
The “queen of the hill” resolution would allow votes on a variety of bills, ranging from Goodlatte and McCaul’s conservative Securing America’s Future Act to a version of the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship for dreamers without concessions to hard-liners, as well as a bipartisan bill that would give dreamers a path to permanent legal status alongside border security measures. The resolution also allow Ryan (R-Wis.) to bring up a bill of his own choosing.
AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said, “We continue to work with our members to find a solution that can both pass the House and get the president’s signature.”
The last time a discharge petition succeeded was in 2015, when 37 Republicans signed one to force a vote on a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States — a government export finance agency that conservative Republicans have long sought to shut down.