When members of Congress departed for the Memorial Day break, a small group of pro-immigration Republican members felt confident they could get the necessary 218 votes on a discharge petition that would force a vote on a DACA bill. At last count, if all Democrats sign-on, the count stood at 215 just before the break. They feel they have the 218.

There are two key dates for a discharge: June 11 and June 25. Once a bill reaches the 218, it has to wait for seven legislative days and then can only be voted on the second and fourth Mondays of the month when the House is in session. That means under the current schedule the only opportunity will be Monday June 25th and Monday July 23rd. There would have to be the 218 signatures by at least June 11th or July 9th.

House Republican leaders including Speaker-candidate, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WS) have been trying to head off a vote. They are trying to come up with an alternate proposal that likely would have to include billions for a boarder wall. At the same time there were discussion taking place on the Senate side with some Senators from both parties arguing that a vote may be forced on the Senate either by the House action or a court ruling this fall and they should have a strategy and legislation before that happens. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has shown little interest in such actions and is unlikely to take up a House bill short of the President’s ok.

The handful of House Republicans including Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) among others have been having discussions with House leadership to determine if there is an alternate agreement that can be reached before the small group gets the final three signatures on the discharge petition. In regard to the discharge petition, members have to sign in person and the House must be in session. Once a member signs the name counts even if that member departs which is what is happening with Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA)—a petition signer.

The way the process is structured; there would be votes on four different bills with the fourth being crafted by the Speaker. The other three would likely be current bills including one on DACA. Under the process the vote would be a “queen of the hill” meaning even if several bills pass only the one with the highest vote total would be sent to the Senate. That likely means a DACA bill would win out with most Democrats and a minority of Republicans supporting it. That would violate the House Republican’s self-imposed “Hastert rule” named after the disgraced House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) who said he would only allow bills to go forward if it had a majority of his majority Republican Caucus members. Violation of the rule as well as the fact that a discharge petition goes over the head of leadership are two big reasons that Ryan and McCarthy are working hard on an alternative before that June 11 date.

One of CWLA’s key talking points from the recent Hill Day visits (Protect the Dreamers) is to get Congress to act on DREAMERS legislation. The Dreamers Act or Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2017 would grant DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiaries permanent resident status on a conditional basis.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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