Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dismissed an attempt to override leadership on immigration Thursday as having no chance of becoming law.
Republican Reps. Will Hurd of Texas and Carlos Curbelo of Florida introduced a discharge petition May 9 hoping to force action on immigration reform. The petition needs only three more signatures to reach the required 218, which would force the full House to vote on four proposed immigration bills.
Ryan met with members pushing the petition and representatives of other factions in the House GOP caucus, hoping to head off the discharge process. The speaker hopes to move a bill through the normal legislative process that also has a chance of becoming law.
President Donald Trump has said he will veto any proposal that doesn’t include his main priorities, among which are a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, funding his border wall, ending the immigration visa lottery, and halting chain migration.
“Members were running a discharge petition because they were worried we weren’t going to take action,” Ryan told reporters after the meeting. “That they weren’t able to have voted on the floor for policies that they like. But I think members also realize a discharge petition will not make law … I think our members realize that it is better to have a process that has a chance of going into law than not.”
“I realize they are only three away,” Ryan said. “The best we can do is make sure that we exhaust the possibilities of coming together as a House conference to bring a bill to the floor that everyone can support. Let me say one more time, a discharge petition will result in no law.”
The Senate could also reject any bill approved by the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Laura Ingraham Wednesday that the Senate will only consider an immigration bill between now and the end of the year if it is one the president supports.
Ryan previously warned that the petition would essentially give Democrats control of the floor. While it was started by moderate Republicans, most of the signatures come from Democrats. He hopes that working with moderate members towards a bill will address concerns that nothing will be done.
“The members who want to see action on this issue were getting exasperated because they didn’t see an opportunity to get something to the floor,” Ryan said. “We are now presenting an opportunity to get something to the floor. I think the Democrats walked away from the process once the Supreme Court took away our deadline on March 5th on this issue, and that has left it to us to get it done.”
The so-called dreamers — immigrants brought into the country illegally as children by their parents under the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act — are among the core problems in the immigration reform debate. Former President Barack Obama covered them with an executive order establishing the DACA program.
Trump and many constitutional law experts question the unconstitutionality of the DACA order, but the chief executive also insists he wants to find a solution to address the dreamer issue. He repealed the Obama order and imposed a six-month deadline starting September 2017 for Congress to replace the DACA program.
Congress has been unable to replace the DACA program, much less agree on a comprehensive immigration reform, due to Republicans’ inability to unite and the Democrats’ strident opposition to virtually anything Trump supports.