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House postpones immigration vote until next week

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) after

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) after a closed-door conference with fellow Republicans at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders postponed until next week a vote on their preferred immigration bill after they fell short of the votes needed and lawmakers rejected a conservative-backed measure Thursday.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced the postponement of the scheduled Thursday evening vote after the conservatives’ bill failed in 193 to 231. All Democrats and 41 Republicans did not support the bill.

The House Republican conference late Thursday held a meeting, where Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) went over the alternate bill section by section, took questions and opened it up for debate, lawmakers said.

But it was unclear if the session won over enough votes for passage next week.

“I don’t think you’re going to go through the bill section by section if you have 218 votes,” said Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), citing the number of votes needed for passage.

But Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said, “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Afterward, Goodlatte said President Donald Trump called him and pledged his support for the alternate bill, but declined to say if he would change the legislation in response to suggestions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) set up the competition between the two measures that would address the young people brought here illegally as children years ago. But that was before President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy created the recent crisis of migrant families being separated and detained.

Trump complicated the votes with a tweet Thursday morning asking “what’s the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills” when Democrats will filibuster it in the Senate, where Republicans have 51 votes but need 60 to overcome Democrats’ opposition.

The House votes also might have been affected by Trump’s order Wednesday reversing his policy of separating children from migrant adults, and on his suspension Thursday of prosecutions of parents who illegally cross the border with their children.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) said Republicans aren’t interested in negotiating a bipartisan deal with Democrats. She scoffed at the Ryan’s “compromise” bill.

“It’s not a compromise,” she said. “It may be a compromise with the devil, but it’s not a compromise with the Democrats, in terms of what they have in their bill.”

Before the vote on the first bill was held, Ryan said, “If these bills do not pass today, then we will cross that bridge when we get to it.”

He continued, “And, at the end of the day, I really believe we will come back around if a bill isn’t passed today, we’re going to come back around to the president’s four pillars.”

The consensus bill creates a pathway to citizenship for the young people brought here illegally as children. It also provides for Trump’s demands: $25 billion for a border wall and expanded enforcement, shifting from family reunification to merit-based immigration and an end to the lottery visa system.

GOP leaders added a measure that would allow detention of migrant parents and children together after being arrested for illegally entering the country, by eliminating the 20-day cap on detaining minors.

Opposing that bill are many conservative members of the Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus.

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