Republican members of the House of Representatives agreed to drop their drive for a discharge petition to force a vote on four separate immigration bills and instead agreed to a vote on two bills.
The moderate Republican members needed just two more votes to reach the 218 signatures. All Democrats had signed onto the petition when Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) became the last Democrat to sign on Tuesday. That means that 23 Republicans had signed on and despite assurances the week before that they had the 218 required, leading Republican moderate members including Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) gave up the effort when they agreed to a conservative “Goodlatte” bill and a second bill being crafted by Speaker Paul Ryan.
The Paul Ryan package included the President’s four pillars allowing a version of DACA, restrictions on family migration, reduction of visas and nearly $25 billion for a wall. Through it all there were signals the White House was on board; the President said he would not support the bill when asked at an impromptu press gathering on Friday morning. Later on Friday afternoon a White House statement indicated he would sign the bills if passed. The Ryan compromise bill allows some access for DACA covered young people with a complex formula toward citizenship. The bill also requires that if the $25 billion for the border wall is cut or transferred then the path to citizenship would get cut off.
As it stands at press time, the House will vote on two bills. The Congressman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) bill is more punitive with limits on immigration and provides no path to citizenship for DREAMERS and narrows who qualifies, it too provides $25 billion for a wall. It eliminates family migration, unlawful presence in the country becomes a criminal violation instead of current law civil violation, and requires employers to use an e-verify. The bill is considered similar to the Trump Administration bill that received 39 votes in the Senate earlier this year—the lowest vote for any of the bills debated.
The Ryan compromise would include numerous restrictions but not as many as Goodlatte. It authorizes funding for a border wall, border technology, border personnel, and modernization of ports of entry, authorizes use of the National Guard along the southern border to construct physical barriers and provide other support on the border, it provides the wall funding as an advanced appropriations—meaning it would not require annual allocations—and requires that advanced appropriations must not have been rescinded or transferred to another account in order for any visas to be issued under the new merit based category created by the bill. It appears to change the Flores settlement by allowing accompanied alien minors apprehended at the border to not be separated from their parent or legal guardian but both can be held in detention (the Ryan fix to childhood separation), and it eliminates the visa lottery and reallocates and restricts several family preferences in visa categories (what supporters call chain migration).
The Ryan bill permits the DACA population to apply for a 6-year indefinitely renewable contingent nonimmigrant legal status. If the Ryan bill holds enough Republican votes to pass the House it will not get 60 votes in the Senate but it may force Majority Leader McConnell to alter his extended August Senate schedule which he hoped to use to approve more Trump judicial nominations. A forced debate could give some Senate Democrats up for reelection a free vote for a Republican package without the bill actually passing. That result would undercut part of the McConnell strategy of an extended schedule which is also designed to keep vulnerable Senate incumbents in Washington instead of being back home in their states.
In the House, the fact that they are building the two vote strategy on the Goodlatte bill means the discharge petition is eliminated since it was built on that bill. The back-up threat of a July vote if the June one failed is over. The President is expected to talk to House members late on Tuesday to discuss immigration.