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House GOP fails to resolve differences over immigration

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

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), meets with reporters during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 10.  Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — House Republicans reached no resolution on internal divisions over immigration in a closed-door meeting Thursday, though leaders made a promise to draft a compromise immigration bill in the weeks ahead.

Moderate Republicans have nearly enough support to force a vote through a discharge petition on their bill to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants brought here illegally as children, over the objections of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Conservatives support a more restrictive immigration bill to address both security and the fate of those immigrants who had been allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that President Donald Trump ended last year.

Ryan sought to defuse an intraparty civil war that threatens GOP efforts to retain majority control of the House in this year’s midterm elections. Afterward he made his promise, in an apparent bid to stall the moderates’ parliamentary procedure.

“This is a conversation that will continue,” Ryan said. “And hopefully we can find a path ahead that is consistent with the four pillars that the president laid out and avoid a pointless discharge petition.”

Ryan added, “A lot of our members are appreciative of the fact that we have the right kind of conversations happening and the next step is to start putting pen to paper so we can bring legislation to the floor.”

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said, “There is no final resolution.” But he added, “There was definitely a mood in the room that the differences are narrowing.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is a co-sponsor of the more restrictive Republican immigration bill, said, “I am leaving the meeting more confident that there could be a bill that could get over the finish line than I was going into the meeting. I would still need to see the bill first to weigh in on it myself.”

Ryan made clear that any compromise bill would be based on Trump’s four pillars of increased border security including a wall, an end to the lottery visa and family reunification policies, and an attempt to address the fate of those registered or eligible for the DACA program.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), one of the moderates, told The Associated Press that the hard-right House Freedom Caucus had offered to let “Dreamers” get a new visa that would let them stay in the country for eight years. Freedom Caucus members declined to confirm that offer.

Denham said the moderates’ threat to force House votes on immigration remains in effect. The group needs two more GOP signatures on a petition that could force those votes, assuming all Democrats sign, and if they get them by next Tuesday, the House would be on track to have those votes June 25.

“We have a firm deadline of next Tuesday,” Denham said. “We’re prepared to have the final signatures if there’s no agreement between now and then.”

Under House rules, members can force the leaders to take up a bill on the floor if they get 218, or the majority of the 435-member chamber, to sign a petition. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and other moderates have joined with Democrats to secure 215 signatures.

“The discharge petition actually did put pressure to get us to where we are today,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). “But I don’t think there’s any will in the Congress to move forward with the discharge petition.”

Curbelo, however, made clear his group will keep putting on the pressure. “We will continue working to reach consensus with our colleagues and leaders while remaining committed to the discharge petition #ImmigrationReform,” he tweeted after the meeting.

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