Republican Leaders Are Scrambling to Avoid Being Humiliated Over Immigration

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As a group of “moderate” House Republicans press forward with a parliamentary maneuver designed to force a vote on a series of immigration bills, GOP leaders have begun quietly negotiating with them in an effort to avoid a potentially embarrassing showdown on Tuesday.


The tactic, known as a “discharge petition,” requires signatures from the full Democratic caucus, plus 26 House Republicans in order to circumvent Speaker Paul Ryan’s resistance toward bringing forward a series of (largely mediocre-to-bad) immigration bills. As things currently stand, three more Republicans are needed to move ahead, Politico reported on Tuesday.

Faced with the prospect of a faction of Republicans—largely ones facing tough reelection campaigns this coming November—helping Democrats ram through a vote and maybe even legislation against the will of party leadership, Politico claims Republican leaders are reaching out to barter with vulnerable petition signatories, rather than allow them to proceed.

“I’m probably going to take myself off the [discharge petition] watch list,” Florida Republican Rep. Dennis Ross said in a brief interview with Politico, following a phone call with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

According to Politico, McCarthy had promised Ross a separate vote on guest worker programs for some immigrants—what Ross called “my big issue.”

“We need to have labor. We’re in a negative population growth in the United States,” Ross added to Politico. “Where we going to find people to do these jobs.”

Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) have also been in negotiations with GOP leadership, as has Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who helped launch the discharge petition to begin with.


Essentially, Republican leadership is hoping to appease individual caucus members enough to avoid the embarrassment of a party schism that would lead to immigration bills being brought—and likely passed—over their objections. Already the prospect of the discharge petition’s success has thrown Speaker Ryan’s leadership into question, with some Republican hardliners vowing to boot him from the role if the legislation moves forward.

Faced with Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline to complete the petition, its supporters are signaling optimism.


“I will be strongly encouraging members on Tuesday to sign the final signatures unless we have a written agreement,” Denham told Roll Call this week—a sign that despite GOP leadership’s effort, he expects the effort to move forward.

There is currently just one Democrat who has not signed the petition: Texas congressman Henry Cuellar, who has held off supporting the measure to force Democrats to take a stronger position against President Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.


“I already know what I would do, but I just want to make sure that they understand that there’s some of us that live on the border, understand the border,” he told Roll Call. “We want to be passionate — quite a little bit more — on the wall.”

Cuellar has nevertheless pledged to join the petition as the final signatory, should two more GOP members put their names down first.

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.