Speaker Paul Ryan’s last-ditch effort to stop Republican moderates from forcing votes on immigration proposals is running smack into a familiar roadblock: conservative opposition to a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
The Wisconsin Republican and his top lieutenants have been playing shuttle diplomacy between conservatives who oppose any vote on a bipartisan solution for Dreamers, and moderates who are demanding one. Leaders of the factions will convene Wednesday afternoon to continue talks in hopes of coming to an agreement that would stop a discharge petition filed by moderate Republicans and Democrats.
Conservatives have resisted allowing moderates to vote on a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who came here as kids — just as they had in past negotiations with House Republicans.
They’ve adopted that stand even though President Donald Trump himself backed a plan to give more than 1.8 million Dreamers a path to citizenship. Conservatives in the House have complained about what they call a “special pathway.”
Moderates, however, have said repeatedly that any alternative must include a pathway to citizenship if they’re going to back away from their discharge petition push. GOP leaders and conservative are desperate to avoid a showdown that would allow moderate Republicans and Democrats to team up to force the House to vote on a compromise immigration plan.
“There needs to be a permanent fix for Dreamers,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a leader of the discharge petition push, told reporters earlier this week.
There is a fear that such a compromise plan would pass the House with Democratic support, an embarrassing display for Republicans who control the chamber.
It‘s unclear whether conservatives will relent on the issue. Under the deal being discussed, far-right members would not have to back any proposal — in fact, they could and would vote against the bill. But they would have to agree to at least allow a vote occur on legislation with a pathway to citizenship.
The fear among conservatives is that even without their votes, such a plan would pass the House with Democratic support and be an embarrassing display for Republicans who control the chamber.
Time is running out to stop the discharge petition. Another Republican, Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, joined the moderates signing onto the petition on Wednesday morning. That means moderates are only four votes shy of forcing the votes.
At the same time, three Republicans are waiting in the wings to join the rebellion. If conservatives and moderates don’t come to an agreement before lawmakers leave town for the Memorial Day recess, Reps. Tom Reed of New York and Dennis Ross of Florida said they will likely sign on.