Attempt to Force Immigration Vote Fails, with New Potential Ahead

Maneuver known as discharge petition would've allowed four bills to come to the floor; Speaker Ryan steps in

Congressional leadership was able to stop a bipartisan push for immigration reform late Tuesday night while also giving its supporters the promise of a vote.

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas and Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida — both Republicans — had tried to force a vote on four immigration bills on May 9 by introducing a maneuver known as a discharge petition. That would have allowed them to bypass the leadership if they’d gotten 218 signatures — and they were just two signatures away before hitting a deadline that killed the petition.

Yet the potential for a vote still exists.

In the final moments before the deadline, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gave supporters a potential win. Spokeswoman AshLee Strong reportedly said Congress will consider two bills next week that will avoid another discharge petition and help solve thorny border security and immigration issues.

The petition would have forced a vote by June 25 if it were successful. Supporters now have to wait until the end of July for a vote; the promise to vote on two immigration bills next week might be enough to stop future discharge petition attempts.

Speaker Ryan had previously warned that the petition would essentially give Democrats control of the floor. The bipartisan group of lawmakers behind the petition, however, was frustrated by the lack of movement on immigration, which has remained a central issue for some time.

Related: GOP Control of House Threatened by Discharge Petition

“We have an opportunity to finally gain operational control of our border and provide a permanent legislative fix for people who came to this country through no fault of their own,” Rep. Hurd said in an earlier statement. “We cannot avoid action any longer, and this is an important issue that the American people want debated on the House floor.”

House leadership tried to reach a compromise by meeting with different factions within the party in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Those in support of the petition took to the floor late into Tuesday evening, when the deadline was just hours away. The lawmakers applauded the bipartisan manner in which it came together while reinforcing the importance of addressing immigration and border security issues.

President Donald Trump has worked to reform the immigration system in ways that prioritize domestic workers over foreigners. The plight of the so-called dreamers, immigrants brought illegally to this country when they were children under the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, must also still be addressed.

Though there is mostly bipartisan sympathy among lawmakers for these individuals, attempts to provide a permanent solution for them has been fraught politically. The issue falls against the backdrop of the larger immigration debate involving border security and illegal immigrants.

Related: Ryan Sees No Future for Immigration Discharge Petition

Former President Barack Obama provided protections for these young people by executive action establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump has called the program unconstitutional, but has said he wants to find a solution to address the dreamers’ status.

Trump wants lawmakers to create a proposal that includes a permanent solution for the dreamers, alongside some of his agenda items, such as funding for a border wall. He issued an executive action, which began a six-month phase-out of the program, in September 2017 to give lawmakers time to find a solution.

It’s unclear right now which two bills will be brought up for a vote next week — but it will likely be the result of internal discussions.

The discharge petition is intended to force a vote on a resolution introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham of California that would allow members to debate the issue on the floor under what is known as the “Queen of the Hill” rule, which grants passage to whichever proposal receives the most votes.

Rep. Hurd introduced one of the bills to implement new border security measures and protect dreamers. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va.) introduced another bill that is aimed at bolstering immigration enforcement, securing the border, and providing a solution for dreamers. And Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California also introduced a bill that would provide dreamers with lawful permanent residence and a pathway to citizenship.

Speaker Ryan would have also had the opportunity to put forth a bill of his choice as part of the discharge petition. It’s unclear which two bills will be brought up for a vote next week — but it likely will be the result of internal discussions, as opposed to the four bills behind the discharge petition.

Connor Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage image: Los Angeles March for Immigrant Rights, CC BY 2.0, by Molly Adams; article image: Los Angeles March for Immigrant Rights, CC BY 2.0, by Molly Adams)


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Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].